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UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARY 




oUuutGE LIBRARY 
UNIVERSITY COLLEO-E 



\ 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/godblessdevilOOwrit 



God Bless the Vevil! 



W nrtr 



p r I? 'i Y 



Cocf Bless the Vevil! 

LIARS' BENCH TALES 

JAMES R. ASWELL 

JULIA WILLHOIT * JENNETTE EDWARDS 

E. E. MILLER * LENA E. LIPSCOMB 

OF THE TENNESSEE WRITERS' PROJECT 

With Illustrations by 

ANN KELLEY 
OF THE TENNESSEE ART PROJECT 



CHAPEL HILL 

A\\\VVAA\VVVVV\\VWWV\VVVV\\VVVVVVVV\VVVVVVVIVVVVVVVVVWVVV\A^ 

THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS 

1940 






COPYRIGHT, 1940, BY 

The University of North Carolina Press 

Written by the Tennessee Writers' Project 

<?f the Works Projects Administration 

William R. McDaniel, Supervisor 

Sponsored by The University of North Carolina Press 

and the Department of Conservation, 

State of Tennessee 



printed in the united states of AMERICA 

Van Rees Press • Neiv York 
P-J. 



Vm>^ ;>>»^ 



Preface 



FOLKLORE IS A KEY TO UNDERSTANDING A WAY 

of life. The folk story, one of the most colorful components 
of this lore, is a popular diversion of many Tennesseans who 
need no instruction on how to spend their leisure time. 

God Bless the Devil! is a collection of these tales, designed 
to show the type stories told and the ease and idiom of the tell- 
ing. These stories are widely circulated in Tennessee. They 
have been selected from dozens remembered and written down 
by staff members of the Tennessee Writers' Project. A great 
many of them are versions heard in Tennessee alone. In type, 
however, they belong to the general folk literature of the South. 

The twenty-six stories in this book fall roughly into three 
groups: 

Some are tales that can be attributed definitely to local 
sources in fairly recent times. Among these are "The Hag of 
Red River" (Robertson County), "Cousin Freebody's Last 
Praying" (Cumberland County), and several others that in 
themselves reveal their places of origin. 

Others of these stories follow folk tale patterns that are al- 
most universal, though background and manner of telling may 
be entirely local. "Young Melvin," a narrative of the simple 
lad who proves himself shrewder than the cunning rogue, has 
several parallels in old British and European folk tales. This is 
true also of "Mammy Wise" and "A Real Hunk of Dreaming." 
"Fool-Killing Shep Goins" is a version of the fool-killer theme 
found in folk tales from New England to the Southwest. Sev- 



X C. U *J a. «J 



vi Preface 

eral of the Negro stories included in this volume are Tennessee 
versions of tales also popular in neighboring states and perhaps 
throughout the South. "Pompey an de Lawd" and "De Ways 
of de Wimmens" are examples. 

Finally, there are whoppers. They are simply a plotless series 
of wild exaggerations. Though they are the most frequently 
heard of all Liars' Bench stories, only two pure examples— 
"Snake Country" and "Pretty Baby"— have been included. 
Two considerations dictated this limitation. Whoppers quickly 
grow monotonous, even when told by a master of the art. 
Furthermore, every story chosen for this collection has a full 
measure of humorous fantasy in addition to pointed narrative 
and character portrayal. 

God Bless the Devil! was arranged and edited by James R. 
Aswell, who also contributed a great many of the stories. The 
other tales were collected and written down by E. E. Miller, 
Jennette Edwards, Lena E. Lipscomb, and Julia Willhoit. Each 
writer did his own research. Illustrations are by Ann Kelley 
of the Tennessee Art Project of the Works Projects Admin- 
istration. 

William R. McDaniel 
State Supervisor 



On the Courthouse Steps 



IN A DUSTY AFTERNOON SKY THE SUN HAS 
paused. Heat-monkeys shimmer across the public square and 
the foliage of the trees on the courthouse lawn hangs in limp 
tatters. The distant barking of a dog and the slow voices of 
the loafers on the worn steps of the shady east portico sound 
equally remote and unreal. Time is a warm stagnant pool in 
which a sensible man moves as little as possible. The best thing 
to do is to lounge here in the shade on the courthouse steps 
and just talk. 

Every small county seat town in Tennessee has its Liars' 
Bench, gathering place for the local historians, yarn-spinners, 
and wags. In the heat and good fellowship of the long summer 
afternoons, talk for the pure sake of talking blossoms at its 
most extravagant. At the Liars' Bench you will find lawyers 
and merchants, Negroes and whites, topers and preachers, 
and they all know how to tell a story. They have on tongue's- 
tip a great store of oral literature, a vivid growing mass which 
has yet to receive the full recognition due it. One of the first 
writers to tap this rich stream was Mark Twain; much of his 
genius undoubtedly lay in an ability to tell faithfully what he 
had heard as a boy and young man when the prize talkers of 
the little Missouri river town of Hannibal sat around and 
drawled the drowsy afternoons away. In our own time those 
Southern regional writers who have not derived from mag- 



X On the Courthouse Steps 

nolia blossoms and crinoline bear marks of the Liars' Bench— 
among them, Erskine Caldwell, T. S. Stribling, Jesse Stuart, 
Jack Boone, Harry Harrison Kroll, Brainard Cheney, Emmett 
Gowen, and Percy Mackaye. There are strong traces in the 
work of William Faulkner and in the eclectic outpourings 
of Thomas Wolfe. 

Though most Liars' Bench tales probably sprout from some 
kernel of fact, each teller garnishes them with fancies of his 
own, interpolates bits of personal experience, and borrows 
heavily from accounts of other events and personages about 
which he has a fuller stock of hearsay. Thus, a tale which 
originates in East Tennessee may cross the state and, after 
countless tellings, reach West Tennessee dressed in a wholly 
different set of circumstances and with only the plot-germ 
intact. In its passage through space and time the story is bound 
to shed numerous by-versions. These, in turn, branch and re- 
branch and are edited and expanded by many tellers until at 
length dozens of stories, completely unlike in detail, have 
evolved from one original source. 

Much of the effectiveness and distinctive flavor of Liars' 
Bench stories lies in the vernacular of the teller. It is a vigor- 
ous idiomatic speech, deep-rooted in the past but still pos- 
sessing the youthful flexibility that characterized Elizabethan 
English. Because the parts of speech have not become frozen 
and inviolable, a man freely uses verbs as nouns, nouns as 
verbs, adverbs and adjectives as nouns, or puts them to any 
other unorthodox task he chooses. Often he does so with strik- 
ing effect and genuine creative power. 

However, this speech is not the hodge-podge of mispro- 
nounced words and bald crippled phrasing that lettered per- 
sons with poor ears and, unfortunately, facile pens, are prone 



On the Courthouse Steps xi 

to pass on. A good listener is soon aware of a flowing speech 
pattern that may be as lyrical as an Irish fairy tale or have 
the measured solemnity of Ecclesiastes— the metrical echo in 
every-day speech of the ballads, hymns, and scriptural quota- 
tions which the small town Tennessean hears from child- 
hood on. 

Liars' Bench tales are intended solely to amuse the teller 
and his listeners, but sociologists and students of psychology 
could find in them a depth of unintended meaning. At the 
Liars' Bench a man is relaxed; he gives his mind the reins and 
lets it wander where it will. Because his words will not be 
weighed, judged, and held against his morals or character, his 
stories are most apt to reveal what he really thinks about life 
and death, religion, and his fellow men than does his public 
attitude toward these things. 

The value of the extravagant story as an emotional outlet 
is one good reason, and possibly the most powerful reason, 
for the survival of the Liars' Bench. A man feels that life is 
not so bad, after all, when without fear of reprisal he can break 
the laws, flout the mighty, kiss the girls, confound the wise, 
and dabble pleasantly in his enemies' gore— even if only in a 
tall story told in the shade on the courthouse steps on a blis- 
tering summer day. 

James R. Aswell 



Contents 

Preface, by William R. McDaniel v 
On the Courthouse Steps, by James R. Aswell ix 

Raring Around with the Boys 

Young Melvin 3 

A Real Hunk of Dreaming 1 1 

Cousin Freebody's Last Praying 25 

To the Last Breath of Fight 33 

Comb Him Wet or Dry 52 

Something to Pass Out Free 60 

Ishen Golightly's Heavy Debt 68 

He-Coon 77 

Even Stephen 87 

Time to Call Titus Millsaps 97 

Fiddler's Dram 106 

Pretty Baby 117 

Mammy Wise 126 

The Hag of Red River 136 



/ Been Told 




De Ways of de Wimmens 


153 


Snake Country 


162 


Little Eight John 


172 


One Fine Funeral 


176 


Double Trouble 


186 


Luster an de Devil 


194 


Pompey an de Lawd 


199 


Melungeon Tales 




Old Homy's Own 


207 


Fool-Killing Shep Goins 


215 


Six Hundred Honest Pounds 


226 


A Stroke for the Kingdom 


244 



Raring Around with the Boys 




Young Melvitt 



AFTER HIS PAPPY PASSED ON YOUNG MELVIN 

decided he wanted to travel. He'd always lived back at the 
forks of the creek and he hadn't ever at no time been farther 
from there than the crossroads. 

So Young Melvin put out the fire and hid the ax and skillet 
and called up his hound named Bulger and he was on his 
way. He went over the hill and a good piece further and he 
come to the crossroads. He went straight to Old Man Bill 
Blowdy's house there. He knocked on the door. 

Old Man Bill Blowdy come to the door and stuck his nose 
out the crack. "Who's there?" says he, not daring to come out 
for fear it was somebody he'd beat in some deal. 

"It's me," says Young Melvin. "Just me and my hound dog 
Bulger." 

Old Man Bill Blowdy opened the door then and gave Young 



4 Raring Around with the Boys 

Melvin a sly look. "Come in and rest and eat a bite," he says, 
faint-like. 

He was a great big fat red man that was always grinning 
and easy talking, like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. And 
he was just about the slickest, double-dealingest old cooter in 
the country or anywhere else at all. Nobody could beat him 
in a deal— never had, anyway— or when it come to a law-suit. 
Always lawing somebody, Old Man Bill Blowdy was. 

"Why don't you come in. Young Melvin?" he says. 

"Because I'm on my way, Mister Old Man Bill Blowdy. I'm 
a-going to town for sure. It's forty miles and across two 
counties but I aim to see that town. That's why I come to 
see you." 

Old Man Bill Blowdy started shutting the door. "Now, now, 
Young Melvin," he says. "I'm hard up for money right now. I 
couldn't loan my sweet mother, now in heaven praise be, so 
much as a penny." 

"I don't want no money," says Young Melvin. "I ain't the 
borrowing kind." 

So Old Man Bill Blowdy poked his head out again. "What 
can I do for you then?" 

"Well, it's like this. You're my twenty-third cousin, my 
only kin in this world. I got a favor for you to do for me." 

Old Man Bill Blowdy started sHding that door shut. "No, 
no favors. I make it a rule to do no favors and don't expect 
none from nobody." 

"It's a favor I'm aiming to pay for," says Young Melvin. 

"Oh," says Old Man Bill Blowdy, opening the door once 
more, "that's different now. Come right in, Young Melvin." 

"No sir, no need to come in, for I'd just be coming out 
again. What I want you to do is keep my fox hound Bulger 



Young Melvin 5 

while I'm off on my travels. I'll pay his keep, I'll pay what's 
right when I come back to get him." 

Old Man Bill Blowdy grinned all over his face. He thought 
he saw a way to make himself something extry or get him a 
fox hound one. Everybody knew Young Melvin was simple. 
Honest as the day's long but simple. 

"Why yes," says Old Man Bill Blowdy. "Why yes, I'll 
keep Bulger for you. Young Melvin, and glad to." 

So Young Melvin gave his hound dog over and bid Old 
Man Blowdy farewell. "I'll be back next week or month or 
sometime. I don't know how long it'll be, for it's forty miles 
and across two counties to town." 

Well, one day the week or month or anyhow sometime after 
that, here come Young Melvin down the pikeroad to the cross- 
roads, limping and dusty and easy in mind. He went straight 
to Old Man Bill Blowdy's house and knocked his knuckles on 
the door. 

Old Man BUI Blowdy stuck his nose out the crack and says, 
"Who's there?" 

"It's me, it's Young Melvin." 

"How are you. Young Melvin?" 

"Fair to piddling. I walked to town and saw all the sights 
and then walked back here again. Forty miles and across two 
counties. Don't never want to roam no more. I'm satisfied 
now." 

Old Man Bill Blowdy started shutting the door. "Glad to 
hear it. Young Melvin. Next time you come down to the cross- 
roads, drop in and say hello. Any time, just any time, Young 
Melvin." 

"Hold there! Wait a minute!" says Young Melvin. 

"I'm busy," says the old man. 



Young Melvin 7 

But Young Melvin got his foot in the door. "How about 
Bulger, Old Man Bill Blowdy? How about him?" 

Old Man Bill Blowdy kept trying to shut the door and 
Young Melvin kept shoving his foot in. 

"See here!" says Young Melvin. "I mean my fox hound." 

"Oh him? Why, I declare to my soul I'd almost forgot that 
hound dog. Young Melvin. I sure almost had." 

"Where is he at?" says Young Melvin, still trying to keep 
the old man from closing the door. 

"I'll tell you," says Old Man Bill Blowdy, still trying to 
shut it, "I feel mighty bad about it. Young Melvin, but your 
Bulger is no more." 

"Howcome? What do you mean?" 

"Why, he's perished and gone. Young Melvin. The first 
night after you left I sort of locked him up in that little 
busted-down house over in the Old Ground. Well sir, Young 
Melvin, those last renters of mine that lived there was power- 
ful dirty folks. They left the place just lousy with chinch 
bugs. Them bugs was mortal hungry by this time. So they 
just eat that Bulger of yours alive. Eat all but the poor thing's 
bones by morning— and the bones was pretty well gnawed. 

"It was my fault in one way. I ought to known better than 
put your dog in there. Young Melvin. But I done it. So I 
won't charge you a penny for his keep the night I had him. 
I aim to do the fair thing." 

Well, Old Man Bill Blowdy stuck his sly eye to the crack 
of the door to see how Young Melvin was taking it. He knew 
the boy was simple. He figured he had him. Because Old Man 
Bill Blowdy had Bulger hid out and he aimed to swap him for 
something to a man he knew in the next county. 

So Young Melvin stood there looking like the good Lord had 



8 Raring Around with the Boys 

shaken him off His Christian limb. Tears come in his eyes and 
he sleeved his nose. "That dog was folks to me," he says. "Them 
chinch bugs don't know what they done to me." 

He pulled his foot out of the door and he backed down the 
steps. He started towards home. 

Old Man Bill Blowdy eased out on the porch to watch him go. 

About that time Young Melvin turned around. "Mister Old 
Man Bill Blowdy," he says, "my place is way over the hill and 
a good piece further. I'm beat out and tired. Wonder if you'd 
loan me your mule to ride on? I'll bring it back tomorrow." 

The old man knew Young Melvin was honest as the live- 
long day. Besides, he was so tickled with how he'd got him a 
good hound to swap and it not costing anything that he just 
called across the way to the crossroads store and got a wit- 
ness to the loan and let Young Melvin take the mule. It was a 
fine mule, too, with the three hind ribs showing, the best sort 
of sign in a mule— shows he's a hard worker. 

Next morning Young Melvin never showed up and Old 
Man Bill Blowdy got worried. He got worrieder still in the 
middle of the day when no sign of Young Melvin did he see. 

But along about afternoon he saw Young Melvin come walk- 
ing over the hill and down towards the crossroads. He run out 
on his porch and yelled, "Hey, Young Melvin, where's my 
mule.?" 

Young Melvin kept walking. He just shook his head. "I feel 
mighty bad about that mule, Mister Old Man Bill Blowdy," he 
called. "I sure do." 

"Hey! Wait there!" 

But Young Melvin went on, heading for the store at the 
crossroads. 

So Old Man Bill Blowdy was so mad he didn't wait to get 



Young Melvin 9 

his shoes. He just jumped off the porch and run across to 
Square Rogers, that good old man's house up the road a ways. 

"Square," he says, "I want you to handle Young Melvin. 
He stole my mule." 

The Square waked up his deputy and the deputy went down 
and brought in Young Melvin. Everybody at the crossroads 
come tagging along behind. 

Square said, "Son, they tell me you stole a mule." 

"No sir, Square Rogers, I never done it," says Young Melvin. 

Old Man Bill Blowdy stomped his bare feet and shook his 
fists. "He's a bald-faced Har!" 

"Curb yourself down, Old Man Bill Blowdy," says the 
Square, "and let the boy tell his side. Go ahead. Young Melvin." 

So Young Melvin told his side, told how he borrowed the 
mule and started for home. "Well," he says, "you know I live 
over the hill and a good piece further. I rode that mule to the 
top of the hill. I was minding my own business and not giving 
nobody any trouble. Then all on a sudden I see a turkey buz- 
zard dropping down out of the sky. Here it come, dropping 
fast and crowing like a game rooster. 

"First thing I knew that old buzzard just grabbed Old Man 
Bill Blowdy's mule by the tail and started heaving and the 
mule's hind legs hfted off the ground and I went flying over 
his head and hit a rock head-on. I failed in my senses a minute. 
When I could see straight, I saw that buzzard sailing away 
with the mule, most a mile high and getting littler all the time. 

"And that's how it happened. I sure am sorry, but there 
ain't much you can do with a thing like that. Square." 

"Hold on there!" says Square Rogers, that good old man. 
"I've seen many a turkey buzzard in my time. Young Melvin, 
but never a one that could crow." 



lo Raring Around with the Boys 

"Well," says Young Melvin, "it surprised me some too. But 
in a county where chinch bugs can eat up a full-grown fox 
hound in one night, why I just reckon a turkey buzzard has 
a right to crow and fly off with a mule if he wants to." 

So it all come out and Square Rogers, that good old man, 
made Old Man Bill Blowdy fork up Bulger and then Young 
Melvin gave back the mule. 

Old Man Bill Blowdy was mocked down to nothing. He 
just grieved and pined away and it wasn't no more than ten 
years before he taken sick and wasted away and died. 

James R. Asivell 





W Real Hutik of dreaming 

EVERYBODY SAID BULL RUNNELS HAD OUGHT 

to be^bored for the^simples. 

First time they said it, he was still just a young'un, about 
fourteen year old but even then as big as a man. People got 
to noticing how he dumb to the top of every tall tree he come 
around and would set up there for minutes at a time craning 
his neck in all directions. 

"What on earth are you doing, boy?" they asked. 

"A-looking at the weather," says he. "You can see heap 
more of it up here." 



12 Raring Around with the Boys 

So they shaken their heads and started saying, "That Run- 
nels boy ought to be bored for the simples! " 

Looked like that boy just never did aim to stop growing. 
Why, when he was eighteen he was easy the biggest man in 
town. He could tote a bigger load and do more downright back- 
breaking work than any two buck niggers in the county. His 
real name was WilHe, but who's going to call a big strappling 
six-foot-four two-hundred-pounder a name like Willie? No, 
it was Bull Runnels— had to be Bull, that's all. 

Ben Canada was the blacksmith and he kept sprying his eyes 
after Bull Runnels. "Look at them shoulders! " says he. "Look 
at them arm muscles a-working like a mess of eels! He'll make 
a master blacksmith, that boy!" So Ben Canada taken Bull 
Runnels on to be his helper and started training him. 

Nobody ever saw his beat when he got started. He made 
that old anvil ring till it shaken every window in town and 
sounded like a steeple full of big iron bells. When he got busy 
bending horseshoes or hammering out wagon springs or axles, 
the inside of that blacksmith shop looked like hell on a busy 
day, with flames shooting every which way and sparks flying 
like red-hot sleet. 

Bull was too busy now to climb trees and look at the weather. 
When he wasn't hammering hot iron, he was sleeping or set- 
ting on his heels out behind Ben Canada's shop in the chicken 
yard listening to the hens. 

"I got a theery," he says, "and it's about chickens. Now, 
chickens is clever if you get to know them good. I figger they 
can talk like anybody else, only we can't make it out. I got a 
theery if I just use around the coop a-listening long enough 
I'll get to where I can understand them. Now, that would be 
a reel novelty! " 



A Real Hunk of Dreaming 13 

So people said they knoiued Bull Runnels had ought to be 
bored for the simples. 

Bull never could get the hang of chicken talk, so he give it 
up, and pretty soon something else was working on his mind. 

"I hear folks all the time talking about dreaming," says he, 
"but me now, I ain't never had one of them things. Don't even 
know what one feels like. Just close my eyes and— pep.'— I'm 
a goner. Next thing I know it's time to go to work again. 
Nothing happens but plain nothing in between. Now, I sure 
would hke to have one of them things just once, just so's I 
could say I'd had it." 

Ben Canada says, "Shucks, Bull, dreams don't amount to so 
much. Some's good and some's bad, but mostly they're bad." 

Was always two or three men hanging around the shop to 
watch Bull work and somebody'd say, "Aw shoot, Ben, you 
know that ain't so. Don't listen to him. Bull." 

Bull would lay his hammer down and push the long hair out 
of his eyes and say, "Now looky-here, boys! Don't you go short- 
talking Mister Ben like that. I'll tromp somebody's britches 
if you don't watch out, now!" 

"Calm down there. Bull," they'd say, ready to cut and run 
if a mean streak hit him. "We don't mean no harm. We was 
aiming to say they're a lot of dreams that's gay to have." 

"Says which?" Bull would get all interested. 

"Well," they'd tell him, "some eating dreams is first rate. 
Maybe you dream all night you're eating. Maybe it's spare- 
ribs and beaten biscuit, buttermilk and gravy and peach dump- 
lings." 

"How about chittlins, now?" 

"Chittlins, too. Just anything. You eat all night and never 
get full. A big fat nigger always ready to heap the grub on 



14 Raring Around with the Boys 

your plate! Ice cream and pie and stripe candy— the more you 
eat, the more they feed you when you're dreaming." 

Bull would set down and put his head in his hands. "Aw me! 
I sure wish I could have a dream, now! I sure do, now! " 

"That ain't all, neither," they'd say. "You dream about 
pretty gals, too." 

"Sure enough?" Bull says. He was awful timid around the 
ladies, Bull was. All he could do was stand and blush and grin 
around them. So now he looked sly and says, "What ki?id of 
gal dreams?" 

"Aw," they told him, "you know. All the pretty gals love 
you and you hug them all and buss them good. Stuff like that." 

^''Whoo-eef" says Bull, jumping up and grabbing a hot bar 
of iron out of the charcoal furnace and banging it with his 
hammer till the anvil danced a jig. "I sure would like to have 
one of them gal dreams, now! " 

Slim Loggins— Lawyer Loggins, his boy Slim— was the ring- 
leader when it come to telling Bull about dreaming. He had a 
gift for it. He could tell a dream to where it sounded better 
than heaven's rest to a damned soul. 

"Yes sir, Bull," he'd say, "everything you've ever wanted to 
do, don't matter what it is, you do it when you dream. The 
whole world's yours. All you have to do is reach out and grab 
it. Say you dream of money. Why, man, you find it in piles! 
Yes sir, big stacks of bright shiny dollars! You can just rake 
it in, shovel it in a wagon, and haul it away." 

"Can you keep the money?" says Bull. 

"Sure you can." 

"Aw me!" moans Bull. "And I can't dream nohow at all. 
Aw me!" 

Everybody in town knew how hard Bull Runnels was try- 



A Real Hunk of Dreaming 15 

ing to dream. Ben Canada's old woman told about it. Bull lived 
in the Canadas' back room and they heard him at it. 

"With him grunting and groaning and doing around like he 
does," says old Mrs. Canada, "we don't get any rest hardly, me 
and Ben. First he bounces up and down till it sounds like the 
bed's going to fall to pieces. Then he quiets down some and 
just about the time we're dropping off he lets out a snort and 
says, 'Dad-fetch it, start a-going, dreams!' 

"Then he starts a-mumbling and saying, 'Aw me! Aw me!' 
and bouncing and blowing till we think he ain't never liable 
to quit. It goes on and on like that. All of a sudden, along about 
midnight, he bubbles two or three times and starts snoring 
peaceful as a baby. Me and Ben don't get a wink till then, 
neither." 

Slim Loggins tells Bull, "Trouble is, you got too good a di- 
gestion. If you eat nails, they wouldn't bother you." 

"I never et no nails that I know of," Bull sa)^. 

"What I mean," Slim tells him, "is that you ought to eat 
something that will give your stummick fits. That's the best 
way to have a dream." 

Bull would scratch an ear and ask, "What ought I to eat, 
then? I eat everything a-going now, but I don't never have 
no dreams." 

"Well," says Slim, "why don't you eat some pig knuckles, 
chittlins, and sourkraut with plenty of vinegar. Then eat a 
mess of catfish and some bananas and ice cream and mince pie. 
Eat lots of each thing and see what happens." 

"Reckon I'll have one of them gal dreams?" says Bull. 

"You ought to have some kind," Slim says. 

Bull kind of twists his blacksmith's apron and grins. "You 
mind if I dream about your gal, Slim? I mean Birdie, now." 



i6 Raring Around with the Boys 

Slim looked funny. Birdie was Doc Nugent's daughter and 
the prettiest bouncing blue-eyed gal in town. But he says, 
"Why, naw. You go ahead and dream about whoever you want 
to." 

"I sure thank you," says Bull. "I sure do, now." 

So Bull went and eat slathers of all that stuff and went home 
and slept like a log. He didn't dream a thing. 

Next day he told the boys, "It just ain't any use. 'Tain't in 
me to have one of them things. Aw me!" 

Slim Loggins got all the boys together at Sneed's drugstore 
one night. He says, "I figger it's high time to do something 
about Bull Runnels." 

"What can anybody do about Bull Runnels?" they said. 

"Hold quiet and I'll tell you. I'll get Birdie to slip out one 
of Doc's prescription blanks. I'll write some scratchy-looking 
stuif all over it and tell Bull it's for medicine that will make 
him dream sure. When Bull brings it over. Doc Sneed here 
will give him a bottle of baby-soother— you game. Doc?" 

Doc Sneed says, "Reckon so, sure. No harm, I reckon." 

"All right. Well, Bull will go home and drink the whole 
bottle and lay down to dream. That baby-soother will work 
on him. When he's helpless, we'll just sUp in his window, all 
dressed in sheets, and tie him up, heist him out the window, and 
carry him over into the woods. 

"Then we'll really fix him up, boys! Nothing that'll really 
damage him, of course. Nope, just a regular Httle old initiation 
like we give at the lodge. He'll be so dope-headed with that 
soothing syrup he won't hardly know what's happening. We'll 
lay it to him to a fare-you-well, then take him home. In the 
morning he'll be sore behind and scared in the head. I'm will- 
ing to bet good money he won't want no more dreams. And 



A Real Hunk of Dreaming 17 

what's more, he'll quit this everlasting talk about it. How's it 
strike everybody?" 

They all said the idea was a ripper. So they set around laugh- 
ing and planning out just what they aimed to do to Bull Run- 
nels to cure him from craving a dream. 

"One thing, though," says Slim. "Don't nobody ever let on 
to Bull about what really happened. He gets tempered up easy 
and when that happens he'll crack bones like kindling wood. 
The man that gives us away will have the rest of us to whip 
as well as Bull." 

In a day or two Slim Loggins and some of the boys went 
down to the blacksmith shop. They told Bull Runnels about this 
sure-fired dream medicine Doc Nugent was putting out. 

"If you want to try it," says Slim, pulling out the blank 
he'd hen-scratched all over, "here's the prescription. Doc Sneed 
can fill it for you." 

Bull dropped his hammer to the ground and reached for that 
piece of paper. He held it up and admired it Hke he was seeing 
visions already. 

"Slim," he says, "do you reckon it will reelly work, now? 
Reckon if I take it I'll have one of them dreams, sure enough?" 

"Why," Slim tells him, "can't be no doubt about it! Do you 
think a fine man like Doc Nugent would go passing out medi- 
cine that won't work? " 

Bull scratched his ear and says no, that wasn't likely be- 
cause Doc was a mighty fine man. Then he grinned and looked 
sly. "Doc sure has got one more pretty gal! Birdie's a reel baby 
doll, now!" 

Slim didn't like that. He looked cross and says, "You'll have 
a real hunk of a dreaming. Bull. I garntee that/" 

When it was good dark. Slim and the boys got together and 



A Real Hunk of Dreaming 19 

waited around till by their judgment the baby-soother had 
got in its licks. Everybody well knowed that Bull Runnels 
bedded early. 

About a little after eight Slim says, "Well, let's go. Bull's 
pounding it hard by now." 

With him leading, the boys stole around behind Ben Canada's 
house, all trying to keep from busting out with the heehaws. 

Life is a funny place sometimes. Most anybody who'd drunk 
that whole bottle of baby-soother would have been dead to 
the world. But, somehow, it didn't operate to amount to much 
on Bull Runnels. No, he was just laying on his back in bed 
feeling a little drowsy and faraway. 

"Maybe," says he, "this is the way you feel when you're 
a-fixing to dream. Maybe I'm just before fetching out one of 
them things, now." 

He rolled over facing to the window. Then he blinked his 
eyes. "Here she starts, sure enough!" he thinks. 

Coming through the window he sees some white floppy 
things. "Must be a dream," he thinks, "because I've been a-living 
all my life and ain't never laid eye on nothing like that. Well, 
now I'm a-dreaming, I might as well start in." 

So he hopped out of bed in his nightshirt and grabbed hold 
of the white things and chunked them out the window. "Go 
way," says he. "I ain't studying to dream about old white 
nothings like you! It's eating dreams and gal and money dreams 
I'm after." 

Sheets with two pair of legs each were flying every which 
way when Bull Runnels dumb out his window in his nightshirt. 
"I reckon," says he, watching them go in the dimmishness, 
"that them is what you call nightmares." 

By the time Bull got out in front of the house, not a sheet 



20 Raring Around with the Boys 

could he see. Pretty scared, they'd scattered to their own houses. 
Slim Loggins was mad^ enough to destroy creation, but he 
knoweH better than face Bull Runnels. So he thro wed his sheet 
away and stomped over to set awhile with Birdie. 

Bull Runnels didn't know what to do next. He stood in the 
middle of the road scratching his ear and wool-gathering. 
"Dad-fetch it, now! " he says. "Ain't hardly reasonable for me 
to have them three kinds of dreams at once. Couldn't get much 
reel satisfaction out trying to eat and buss a pretty gal and pick 
up money at the same time. It would be a mess, if you ask me. 
All right then, we'll see, now." 

He picked up a flat rock and spit on it. He called that side 
heads and the dry side tails and flipped it to see which way to 
take his dreams. 

"Eats first," says he, "then money, then the pretty gal dream." 

Straight away he loped down to the square in his bare feet 
with his nightshirt switching around his big hairy legs. He 
made for Tom's Dandy Eats, the best place in town to get a meal. 

It was late and wasn't a soul in Tom's Dandy Eats except 
Tom himself. Tom lets out a howl when Bull comes in. "Bull 
Runnels!" he says. "What the devil ails you?" 

Bull looked him in the eye and pointed his finger. "Don't 
give me no trouble. Mister Tom," he says, "or I'll chum your 
head. I'm having a dream of eating and the mouth juice is about 
to choke me, now. So hump yourself. Mister Tom. Whatever 
you got that's hot. Don't matter. Just so's they's a plenty of it." 

"Who's going to pay? I ask you, Bull Runnels?" 

"Why, don't act so crazy. Mister Tom!" says Bull. "This 
is a dream. Everything's free in a dream. Make haste, now. 
They's piles of silver dollars and a pretty little gal a-waiting to 
be dreamt." 



A Real Hunk of Dreaming 21 

Here's the way it was. Tom had heard some talk when the 
boys were eating with him. So he figgered it out in a wink and 
vowed to himself he'd make them pay for whatever Bull put 
away. So he just loaded the table down. 

Bull slapped his stomach, grabbed a knife, and started shov- 
eling. Eat two pounds of steak and half a ham butt. Eat four 
helpings of fried potatoes, a plate of brains and eggs, some cab- 
bage and turnip greens, some batter cakes and sorghum-lasses 
and butter, soda biscuits, com pone, lamb fries, and washed it 
all down with sweetmilk and coffee. 

In about an hour he pushed back his chair and wiped his 
mouth on his nightshirt tail. "Ah Lordy!" says he. "I sure 
dreampt a good un!" 

Next Bull tried to get into the bank but couldn't. "Dog- 
gone!" he says. "They didn't tell me you had locks in dreams! 
But they sure got them on the bank." 

So then he cut over to Doc Sneed's drugstore and walked in. 

When Doc viewed him he got scared, thought Bull was com- 
ing after him for being in on the joke. He backed up against 
the wall and pled, "Don't do it. Bull! I didn't mean nothing 
by it! Swear to God I didn't. Bull!" 

Bull just gawped at him. "Doc," he says, "you sure act funny 
in a dream. I wish you'd quit shaking and come over here and 
show me how to open this cash register. I push these little stick- 
out things?" 

"Aw, you ain't going to raid the till. Bull! " 

"Why no," says Bull, filling a sack with change and bills. 
"I'm just having my money dream, now." 

It was fair killing Doc Sneed to watch it. Must've been any- 
how fourteen or fifteen dollars in the till. But he knowed better 
than tell Bull it was a joke. If he believed it, Bull might' ve 



2 2 Raring Around with the Boys 

wrecked the place pretty near. Doc was madder than Tucker 
the day his dog died, but he couldn't do a thing about it. 

"Thank you kindly, Doc," says Bull. "Much obliged for the 
money dream." 

And then he went back to Ben Canada's and dumb in the 
back window and stashed the sack of change and bills. 

"Now," says he, "for the pretty gal dream! Whoo-eef" He 
poured half a bottle of sweet hair oil over his bushy head, 
dumb out the window, and started for Birdie Nugent's house. 
He was in a big way, feeling mighty bobbish, and he walked 
like a man stepping over cornstalks, with his head in the air 
and his nightshirt waving around his legs. 

So happened that old Doc Nugent was away from home on 
a night call and his old lady had gone to bed. Slim Loggins and 
Birdie were sweethearting on the sofa in the parlor. 

Bull come up on the piazza in his quiet bare feet. He stood 
there peeking in, grinning, and clucking. "Ah Lordy!" says 
he, "that Birdie! Pretty as a spotted pup!" 

First thing Slim or Birdie knowed. Bull had hauled off and 
come bulging in the front door. "Hi there. Miss Birdie!" says 
he. 

Birdie screeched and Slim near swallowed his neck-bean. 
Slim jumped behind the sofa in a sweat panic. Birdie stood up, 
pale as death, and her knees about to jack-knife under her. 

"Here I am, little hossfly! " says Bull. Then he picks Birdie 
up like a baby and sets on the sofa with her on his knee. But 
Birdie didn't know about it. She gave a little cheep and then 
she mere fainted away. 

"Buss me, hossfly," says Bull, and he gave her a big old 
smack right square on the mouth. ^^Whoo-eeT says he. "You're 
good enough to eat, now!" 



A Real Hunk of Dreaming 23 

He started patting her head with his big hand like you'd 
pat the flank of a horse. He didn't notice a thing— neither that 
Birdie'd swooned out or that Slim Loggins was crawling on 
his belly over by the wall towards the grate. Didn't see Slim 
get the poker. 

"Little Birdie gal," says Bull, "a man couldn't want no bet- 
ter dream than you. Buss me again, little pistol." 

So Bull didn't see Slim behind the sofa, gritting his jaws like 
he could chew the edge off a cold chisel. He didn't see that 
poker in both Slim's hands and BIooB in Slim's eye. Didn't see 
it coming down like a jag of blue lightning. 

The poker landed so hard it just jarred the house. Bull Run- 
nels started leaning over sort of slow. Slim caught up Birdie, 
and Bull slid out on the floor, dead to the world. 

After rolling Bull out on the piazza, Slim brought Birdie to. 
He got some of the boys and they toted Bull home and dumped 
him in bed. 

Next morning Slim and the boys drifted down to the black- 
smith shop. Doc Sneed come along too. They were all kind of 
worried, scared Slim had maybe damaged Bull's head with the 
poker. 

But no Lord! There was Bull hard at it bending horseshoes 
and making that old anvil ring like a steeple full of big iron 
bells. 

Bull let out a bellow when he noticed the boys edging through 
the door. "Boys," says he, "it done the trick! That medicine 
give me a sure enough reel hunk of dreaming, now! I had a 
gal dream the sweetest ever!" Bull smacked his lips and rolled 
his eyes. 

"Yep," says Bull, "made me fifteen dollars and seventy- 
seven cents in my money dream, and I won't never forget the 



24 Raring Around ivith the Boys 

eating dream. Fm satisfied now, though. Don't want to dream 
no more ever, now. It gives you too big a headache when you 
wake up." 

So everybody just looked at him. Doc Sneed was out his 
money, Slim had had his best gal bussed, and the lot of them 
had to chip in and pay a big feed bill at Tom's Dandy Eats. 

So Slim Loggins cocked his eye at the roof and stuck his 
hands in his pockets. "Boys," says he, "I ain't so sure about 
who ought to be bored for the simples now." 

James R. Asivell 





Cousin Freebody's Last Praying 

WHEN IT COME TO PRAYING, COUSIN FREEBODY 

Tillman just couldn't be beat— or stopped, neither, till he'd 
prayed his self out. When he got up to pray, everybody at 
Pilgrim Beauty Church House knowed they was in for a spell 
of squirming, because Cousin Freebody cried aloud and spared 
none. 

He had a special kind of slow solemn way to get down on 
his knees. He'd turn his round red face up towards the rafters 
and give a sweet smile in the Lord's direction. Then he'd pull at 
his white chinbrush two or three times and sail in. "Oh Looord, 
oh Looord," he'd say, each time a mite louder. "Oh Looord, 
this is Freebody Tillman asking you to send the Holy Spirit 
down upon them whiskey-making Barfieldses! Oh Looord, 
drive out the demons from the heart of pore Delia Creasy, for 
she's been galavanting around and got herself in a fix. 

"Oh Looord," he'd beller, "who is beknowing to all things, 

25 



26 Raring Around with the Boys 

clean with them holy hands of yores the vile hands of them 
that charges two prices for brought-on goods that they got half 
price at the county seat. You know who I mean." And he'd 
open one eye and look at Storekeeper Boshears. 

That's why they all called him Cousin Freebody, when he 
wasn't nobody's cousin at all. Cousin-like, he knowed every- 
body's business and was just dying to teU it around. Yes, when 
he got warmed up praying, Cousin Freebody would run right 
through the community, naming names and telling what they'd 
done against the teaching of the Book since last meeting night. 

Cousin Freebody left his own self to the tag end. "Oh 
Looord," he says, "bless thy humble servant that calls yore at- 
tention to these here sinners. Send yore holy lamb to bless his 
mission of righteousness, oh Looord, Amen!" Then he'd get 
off his knees, looking mighty satisfied and proud of his self. 

Some said it wasn't right the way Cousin Freebpdy taken 
on his self to tell the Lord all such things in public. But some 
claimed it was a genuwine service to the community. Both 
sides argued back and forth and Cousin Freebody kept right 
on pointing the sinners out every chance he got to pray. 

Old Hub Peegrum lived joining farms to Cousin Freebody 
and knowed him might near as well as anybody, or maybe bet- 
ter. "You know," he says, "it's a queer thing to me that them 
Freebody Tillmanses will eat possum, come any season, and 
any fool knowing possum ain't good only from frost till Easter. 
Why, I've seen the meat on the platter, and it don't have that 
greasy look that possum meat does. It's sort of pink and all 
lean like— well, it just couldnh be sheep meat, because Cousin 
Freebody don't raise sheep. But I will say it's the sheepiest- 
looking possum meat ever I seen! " 

You could take it or leave it. Old Hub Peegrum hadn't put 



Cousin Freebody^s Last Fraying I'j 

his self on no limb, but it did set folks to thinking. They got 
to thinking about the way the farmers had been missing lambs 
and couldn't figger what was going with them. 

Far and near the folks begun talking about Cousin Freebody's 
sheepy-looking possum meat. Some of them says to him, "What 
kind of possum is that you folks eat. Cousin Freebody?" 

"Regular old simmon tree possum, brother," says Cousin 
Freebody. "Eats good, too. I've eat so much possum, reckon 
you might say I'm half a possum my own self." 

It didn't take the wind out of his sails none at all. If any- 
thing, he prayed louder and spilled other people's sins out in 
public harder than ever. His "Oh Looords" got to be so long 
that some said he counted up to ten in his mind before he'd 
turn one aloose. 

One reason Cousin Freebody got away with all he did was 
the way he could pray up a rain. Just let it come a drouth and 
there'd be a special prayer service for rain. By the time Cousin 
Freebody had got through his prayer, wasn't no need of no- 
body else trying. Wasn't nothing else left to promise the Lord 
if he sent rain. So the meeting would break up and the crowd 
go home. Most usually by that time the sun would be gone 
behind a cloud. All the womenfolks would go home and get 
the rain barrels and tubs out, for they knowed that rain was 
sure coming. 

Some that read their almanacs said they noticed Cousin Free- 
body seemed to pick out the days to pray for rain when the 
signs were right for it. Some said so to his face. 

But Cousin Freebody just laughed. "Well, anyhow," says he, 
"it did rain, didn't it? Almanac or no almanac, you don't see 
it raining after anybody else prays, do you?" 

He had them there. 



2 8 Raring Around with the Boys 

Cousin Freebody not only prayed, but he was likewise visited 
by visions. 

"Didn't a white dog come sneaking out from under Malinda's 
bed one night and didn't I try to kick it out the door, because 
Malinda wouldn't have no such truck as a dog in the house, 
let alone under a body's bed, and didn't my foot go clean 
through that hant, and didn't it just sort of fade away without 
going out the door nor nothing? And, of course, it wasn't no 
time till Malinda taken with pneumonia fever and died. 

"That was a warning for certain," Cousin Freebody would 
say. "And furthermore than that, I see visions the times I pray 
for sinners. Yes, the Lord sends me signs, and the sinners most 
always get converted." 

The way Cousin Freebody got warnings and had his prayers 
answered gave lots of people the all-overs and brought heaps 
of them to the mourners' bench. But there was one time when 
Cousin Freebody's vision wasn't just what he bargained for. 

The regular Wednesday night prayer meeting was being 
held over at the Edwardses away across the ridge, and Cousin 
Freebody and Old Hub Peegrum went over together. On the 
way. Cousin Freebody said it would be weathering before long, 
because he had heard a hoot owl hooting that day. 

"It's not a sign of weathering," says Hub Peegrum, "to hear 
a hoot owl, but just them whiskey-making Barfieldses signaling 
somebody's coming towards their still. Some day," he says, 
"you'll find out all them signs you go by don't hold water, 
Cousin Freebody." 

Now that didn't set well with Cousin Freebody— Old Hub's 
belittling his signs and visions. So he just puffed and blowed, 
mad as a hornet, all the rest of the way to the meeting. 

The womenfolks were there in the parlor and each one had 




their Bible and songbook and fan. The menfolks were chewing 
tobacco and smoking out in the yard till Cousin Freebody come 
in. Then they followed him inside to begin the meeting. 

"Cousin Freebody must have a powerful good speaking or 
something on his mind tonight," everybody says. "He never 



30 Raring Around with the Boys 

stopped to swap gossip with the men outside like always. Just 
come right on in." 

"Pears to me," somebody says, "he looks sort of unusually 
pious too, or else something's troubling his mind a plenty. 
Maybe another one of them visions he talks about." 

The song services ended with them all joining in on "When 
I Shall See Him Face to Face," and Cousin Freebody got ready 
to pray. Down on both knees, face lifted to high heaven, hands 
folded. 

"Oh, Looord! Oh Lord Almighty God! You who are be- 
knowing to our every need. Oh Looord, send a vision to these 
sinful people. Something as a token. Lord, to thy faithful servant 
for telling you all these things these folks been doing all these 
years. Oh, Loooord, one of our deacons don't believe in warn- 
ings from thy holy hand. Lord, just a little vision to them as 
needs it most is all I'm asking." 

Somebody giggled from over next to the wall where the 
young bucks was setting with their girls. Cousin Freebody 
cocked one eye open to see how Old Hub's face was looking. 
Everybody was bound to know the prayer for a vision was 
aimed at Hub, the doubting deacon. 

And that was the downfall of Cousin Freebody, opening 
that one eye. If he hadn't done it, likely nothing would have 
happened. But he did. 

He sprung up with both eyes wild and he threw his arms out 
in front of him like he was trying to push away the devil his 
self. 

"Almighty God, remove this evil vision from me! " he howled. 
"I'll pay Tom Edwards and Hub Peegrum for every last lamb 
of theirs I et and told it was possum. Almighty God, this ain't 
the little lamb I et today, you done made a mistake. Lord, it 




was a young ewe I et today. Oh God Almighty, stop the pitiful 
bleating of that poor little stolen lamb of Hub's I et last week! 
Oh, Loooooord— !" 

And there it was, out before God and everybody else what 
he'd been doing. 

Everybody was laughing so hard, and Cousin Freebody howl- 
ing so loud that Tom Edwards' house near shaken down. 

"It ain't no vision, Cousin Freebody!" Tom kept yelling at 
him. "It's a little pet lamb of Nancy's. A lamb that's been raised 
up in the house and taken a notion to stroll in. It ain't no vision, 
Cousin Freebody." 

Well, when Cousin Freebody seen what he'd done to his self, 
he lost his religion. He waved his arms and raved, "You ornery 
razor-backed, throat-cutting, whiskey-drinking bastards can 
have all the meetings you want to from now on, but I won't 
be there to help you. Anybody that would make a poor old man 



32 Raring Around with the Boys 

think he was getting such a bushwhacking from the Holy Spirit 
is worthless as frog spit! " 

He stomped towards the door, but stopped long enough to 
say, "And as for you, Tom Edwards, anybody that'd stoop to 
raising sheep in the house ain't fitten for even a sheep thief 
to associate with." 

And Cousin Freebody never went to another meeting and 
never prayed again. 

Julia Willhoit 



To the Last Breath 
of fight 




WHEN HULETT CROSSWAY BOUGHT A LOCOMO- 

bile it made some stir up and down Painter Creek. Hulett had 
always been such a fancier of fine hoss-flesh that most folks 
point blank wouldn't believe it. They said it was a slander on 
Hulett. 

But they mighty soon saw for themselves. Old Hulett lived 
at Springhead with his wife and five boys and four girls and 
their families, and every day now down Valley Road in his 
Locomobile he went. Yes, on down Painter Creek Valley 
County Road and back up Valley Road, sometimes in his 
Locomobile, sometimes afoot, Old Hulett went every day. 

All up and down Painter Creek folks was a-gaping and 
a-bhstering. They'd run and hang out the cabin doors watch- 
ing the Locomobile busting down Valley Road, with its brass 
radiator shining and steaming and its polished leather top straps 
winking in the sunlight. And Old Hulett sticking his white- 

33 



34 Raring Around with the Boys 

whiskered head out the side ever so often to yell "Gee!" or 
"Haw!" or "Whoa!" 

Days when he went back afoot, the Locomobile would be 
somewhere down the road. Somtimes it would be upside down 
in a ditch, sometimes a wheel would be off. Sometimes it just 
set there in the road, with nothing wrong a body could see, 
but all Valley folks knowed there was something wrong. 

Old Hulett would tramp back to Springhead and gather his 
sons and his sons-in-laws. Then the whole passel of Crossways 
and in-laws would stem back down the road to where the 
Locomobile was stuck. There'd be grunting and heaving and 
swearing and working. Sometimes they was at it till long after 
nightfall, but they always got the Locomobile back to Spring- 
head before daybreak. And next day Old Hulett would steam 
down again. 

Valley folks was between a sweat and a stew. Nobody 
knowed what to make of it. And nobody wanted to ask Old 
Hulett, he was such a funny old cooter. 

"Old Crossway's just gone rank loony!" some said. 

But others said, "Ain't nothing so strange about it," they 

\ V'said. "Course, it is a Uttle mite queer that he'd go so far as to 

rt^ buy one of them ungodless things. But everybody in Painter 

^^ Creek Valley knows that Hulett goes to town every year about 

this time. And they likewise know that he gits lickered up, 

stays a week, and then comes home and stays drunk two weeks 

before he commences to sober up. How about them other 

things he's done lots of other times when he was on a bust? 

How about the time he was going to teach his boss Dicker to 

walk a rail fence and the boss broke his leg and had to be shot? 

Well, this ain't no bit stranger, and in another week it all will 

be over. Old Hulett's been at home just one week now and he 



To the Last Breath of Fight 35 

must be still drunk as a hoot owl. One more week and it's over. 
You'll see." 

Both sides was wrong, as they found out right soon. 

Luther Lee Tidwell was driving his team and wagon up 
Valley Road next morning, and here comes Old Hulett's Loco- 
mobile doiv7J Valley Road, with the radiator steaming and red 
dust and black smoke clouding the road behind it. Now, Luther 
Lee'd figgered this might happen, and he was out on the road 
two hours earlier than the regular time Old Hulett made his 
run down the road. But all the same here came Hulett, hell- 
bound. About a hundred yards off. Old Hulett leans his head 
out the car and whoops, "Git out of the road!" 

Luther Lee figgered on doing just that. He pulled his team 
hard to the right, but the sight of that snorting contraption 
made them skitter and buck for a bare-cut minute before they 
lunged off to the right. 

Old Hulett seen he couldn't miss Luther Lee and stay in the 
road. He sings out "Gee!" at the end of his lung power and the 
Locomobile swung to the right. "Haw!" yells Old Hulett, still 
louder, but the Locomobile didn't haw. It busted square into 
the rail fence and stopped halfway through it. 

Luther Lee's team had pulled his wagon mighty near through 
the fence on his side of the road, too. Rails was scattered 
galley-west, every which way from Sunday, and the wagon 
and harness all tangled up in them. The horses was kicking and 
raring but they couldn't go no further. 

Luther Lee got his team quieted and climbed out of the 
wagon. His wagon was battered some and his horses skinned up 
and his rail fence down. He was mad. 

"You gol-dumed old white-whiskered billy goat!" he says. 
"I come out on the road two whole hours earlier just so's I 



36 Raring Around with the Boys 

wouldn't meet you and your hell-wagon. And here you are 
noway! What the hell do you mean? Are you drunk?" 

Old Hulett climbed out of the Locomobile, swabbing his face 
with a red bandana. His chin whiskers was going good now. 
He was working that chaw to death. He just stood there a 
minute chawing and rubbing sweat from his face. Then he says, 
in his fast high-pitched voice, but perfectly mild, "Well, I tell 
you now, Luther Lee, I shore am sorry. I shore am. I come out 
myself just two hours earlier than usual this morning, because I 
begun to iigger this dod-danged thing wasn't never going to 
learn to be harnessed and handled, the way things was going. 
So I figgered if I come out earlier today I'd have time to make 
tivo trips down and up the road. I shore am sorry about yore 
fences, Luther Lee. I shore am. Just wait till I go git my boys 
and boys-in-laws and we'll fix em up for you good as new. And 
yore wagon, too. Just you set tight and wait. I got to git my 
boys anyhow to help me git my Locomobile out of the ditch 
and the fence." 

Luther Lee could see now that Old Hulett wasn't drunk. 
He hadn't even had one drink. There wasn't no smell about him 
but chawing tobacco, and dog fennel, and the faintish smell of 
lye soap that his old woman had washed his faded blue overalls 
and jumper in. 

So Luther Lee says, "Come and help me git my team and 
wagon untangled and I'll cart you up to Springhead." 

And while they was riding on up the road, he pumped the 
old man dry. And Old Hulett answered free as the wind. He 
told Luther Lee how he had always notioned a body should 
keep up with the times and stay as near abreast as he could. 
And how he went in to Mountain City two weeks before aim- 
ing as usual to git drunk and stay there a week and come home 



To the Last Breath of Fight 37 

and stay drunk two weeks, when one of the first things he seen 
was a Locomobile coming down the street. He was so down- 
right amazed he just run out in the street and hailed the machine 
and stopped it. And he asked the fellow driving all about it. 
He learned there wasn't but one more Locomobile in Mountain 
City, and it was for sale at Judson's Wagon & Buggy Store. 
Right there he made up his mind he had to have it. So he never 
got drunk at all this time, but went right direct and bought the 
machine and set out to break it to driving. 

He told Luther Lee he had kind of a hard time learning it. 
"The dod-danged thing's got so many do-funnies on it," he 
says, "that it takes a heap of doing about to work em all at the 
right time. 

"Like that there horn now, for instance," he told Luther 
Lee. "You got to grab hold of that soft black gourd and squash 
it in yore hand, and the horn lets out a racket like a puny little 
foxhorn, but lots shorter. ^BeepP it says, like that. Well, I 
figger that was just an unuseless nuisance and not much good 
noway. So I didn't bother none about it. I just stick my head 
out the side and yell when somebody gits in my way. 

"But," says Old Hulett, "there's other things you can't git 
out of working. Like that wheel, for instance, to guide you 
one way or another. I didn't figger that would be much trouble 
if I just could say 'Haw!' and pull left, or 'Gee!' and pull right, 
like I always done with my team. But puUing don't do no good 
on that wheel. You got to turn it around on that post, and 
seemed like I couldn't remember to do that in time. And the 
dod-danged thing never paid no attention to 'Haw!' or 'Gee!' 
Still don't for that matter. 

"But," he says, "the worst thing is stopping the dod-danged 
machine. There's a little contraption down under yore left 




foot what they call a clutch-foot-pedal, and there's one under 
yore right foot what they call the brake-foot-pedal. Well, to 
stop you got to push in both of them, haul in on yore wheel, 
and yell 'Whoa!' all to once. I tell you, Luther Lee, it shore is 
a job!" 

Old Hulett went on and told Luther Lee how he spent the 
week in Mountain City trying to break the machine to driving, 
and how he banged up a few buggies and busted some store 
fronts and fences and had to pay for them. So the man he bought 
it from told him he better bring it back to Painter Creek Val- 
ley where he had plenty of space and learn it. So they loaded 
it on Old Hulett's team and wagon, and he brought it back to 
the Valley. 

"And I been trying to learn the dod-danged thing to harness 



To the Last Breath of Fight 39 

and drive ever since!" says Old Hulett, biting a fresh chaw. 
"But looks like it don't do no better. It's the contrariest thing 
I ever had dealings with! My patience is about wore out. Just 
one more week I'm going to try, and if it still don't come 
around, I'm through with the mule-headed piece of junk. I'll 
trade it off for a yearling colt or something like that I can 
break myself and bring up right. You know, Luther Lee, I 
figger that's what's wrong with that Locomobile. It wasn't 
broke in right when young." 

Old Hulett chawed hard for a minute and then says, "So 
that's how come me out two hours earlier than usual this morn- 
ing, Luther Lee. I figgered I'd be as fair as I knowed how this 
last week and give the dum thing tivo trips a day, stid of one. 
And if it can't learn like that, then there just ain't no use trying. 
But I shore am sorry about yore fences, Luther Lee. Me and 
my young'uns will fix em up for you." 

Everybody in the Valley watched Old Hulett's Locomobile 
twice as close that last week, after Luther Lee spread the news 
up and down the Valley. But looked like the thing done worse 
instead of better. Old Hulett's boys and boys-in-laws was 
pretty near worked to a frazzle gitting the thing out of ditches 
and putting wheels back on and turning it right side up, so as 
Hulett would have time to make his two trips a day. The last 
few days they just trotted up and down the road after the Loco- 
mobile. They was all scared to ride in it. 

When Saturday night came everybody knew Old Hulett was 
through with the Locomobile. 

Saturday the thing had really acted up. It jumped, it snorted, 
it ran into ditches, it tore down six fences, it turned over three 
times. Just before sunset, when Hulett had nearly got it back up 
the road to Springhead the second time, it lost two wheels at 



40 Raring Around with the Boys 

one time, the left fore and the back right. It spit a big cloud 
of black smoke and snorted and the engine quit dead. 

There it set with the left front side down and the right back 
up in the air. Old Hulett shifted in his seat and the right back 
went down and the left front came up. Just like a see-saw, it 
was. Old Hulett climbed out, with the thing still see-sawing. 

Then Old Hulett done something that showed everybody 
how mad he really was. Hulett Crossway was a man that had 
never been known to mistreat an animal no matter how mean or 
contrary it was. Folks said he had the patience of time itself in 
hoss-breaking and training. 

He hauled off and kicked that Locomobile right square in the 
side. 

"You dod-danged, gol-dumed, mule-headed, polecat-scented 
cross between a cow steer and a busted wheat-thresher!" he 
yells. "I hope to never see you again as long as I live or die! I 
aim to trade you off this very night if I don't git but a sick shoat 
for you." 

And he done just that thing. That same night. Him and his 
passel of boys got the wheels back on the thing and loaded it 
onto his team and wagon and he carted it off down the road. 
He swapped it to old Pluvis Talley, way the other side of the 
Valley, for a pied, moon-eyed heifer calf. 

The whole of Painter Creek Valley heaved a sigh from end 
to end. "That," they says, "is the finish of Old Hulett's auto 
trouble, for shore now." 

And it did seem that way for a year or so. Folks built back 
their fences and Old Hulett drove his team and looked like 
everything was as nice and settled as could be. 

But these modem times— yes, these modern times kept a-slip- 
ping into Painter Creek Valley. Slipped in a little more every 



To the Last Breath of Fight 41 

year that passed. And just as sure as your modem times come 
into a place, a whole mess of autos can't be far behind. 

So first thing anybody knowed one day an auto came 
a-puffing and a-snorting up Valley Road and the folks ran out 
and said, "Plague on it! Has that old toot gone and re-swapped 
himself back that danged Locomobile? Could it be?" 

But no, there was no guilt on Hulett Crossway for it. It 
was Doc Brumitt from Mountain City in a spank shiny new 
high-pocket contraption called a Chandler. And from then on, 
as often as once a month, here came that Chandler along Valley 
Road. 

That busted it wide open. Seemed like it wasn't no time to 
speak of before nobody was surprised much to see maybe one 
auto a week bouncing along the road. And then it was two 
autos a week and then one a day and so on till a body wasn't 
surprised to see one of the things just any old time. It used to 
be when the womenfolks heard a loud bang close by it just 
naturally meant throw the grease in the skillet, because pappy's 
shot him a squirrel. Now the womenfolks just couldn't tell. 
Like as not a loud bang was some auto a-blowing a hole in its 
tire. There was many a skillet of good hog grease wasted before 
the womenfolks got used to it. 

That's where Old Hulett Crossway came into the picture 
again. On a Fourth Sunday when Brother Bangs was preaching 
at Claybank Church-House, who should show up on the front 
bench but Old Hulett and him a Missionary Baptist instead of 
an Old Baptist hke all the folks at Claybank was. He'd come 
there mainly because there was near a hundred in the congre- 
gation where there wasn't over a good dozen Missionaries in 
the whole county. He wanted a big hearing, Old Hulett did, 
so he set through the preaching just a-chawing his cud and 



42 Raring Around with the Boys 

mopping his face with his red bandana. And when preaching 
was over and everybody was crowded out front visiting and 
talking, Hulett got up in the bed of his wagon and begun to 
elocution against autos. 

"Good neighbors and friends! " he says, so shrill and high that 
it carried around the church-house and plumb back again. 
"We're all, every last one of us, free white Christian good 
American citizens of these here United States. We fit the dod- 
dumed British to make this a free country. We whupped the 
lowland slave-drivers to set the niggers free. Yes, and right of 
lately we've sent our young men to fight Bill Kaiser's boys to 
keep the Pope of Rome from taking this free land over. So now 
what? What, I ask you?" 

Then Old Hulett got red in the face, stuck his chin-whiskers 
right straight out, and held his arms up stiff over his head. He 
flung his arms wide out and yelled, ^' Autos! Dod-danged con- 
traptions! Devil-buggies!" 

Well, everybody just up and laughed at Old Hulett. Luther 
Lee Tidwell said, "Why, Hulett, who but you brought the 
first auto into Painter Creek Valley?" 

"Shore I done it," said Old Hulett. "I brought that Locomo- 
bile in and didn't the Lord punish me mightily for it? You know 
He did. And now I stand before you, one and all, and ask you to 
help me drive the varmints out before they ruin us. I had the 
smallpox once. I don't never want to have it again. No, nor my 
kin nor neighbors and friends. And, folks, take it from me that 
knows, these here autos is worse than the smallpox any day! " 

But the crowd just laughed and said, ^'Aw" and started 
breaking up. 

Old Hulett begged and Old Hulett pled and when finally he 
did see it wasn't doing a mite of good he windmilled his arms 



To the Last Breath of Fight 43 

and yelled, "Dod-fetch you, one and all! I swear I'll do it my- 
self." 

And it wasn't no later than the next day that Old Hulett was 
good as his word. Yes, next day Doc Brumitt came a-bouncing 
over Valley Road near Springhead and before he could say 
"Bless Pat," first his fore left tire, then his fore right tire blowed 
out. And the next minute his back left tire and his back right 
tire went bam—ponjo! And there set his Chandler on four^tires 
as flat and spread-out as duck feet. 

"^ So Doc had to foot it across the fields to Alvin Tuck's. He 
got there after awhile, but twin girls was already horned and 
meowing by then. 

Pretty soon the star-route free deliverance mailman he came 
driving his T-whacker Ford down Valley Road, feeling proud 
as a dog with three tails because he'd got rid of his buggy and 
bought him an auto. So he blowed his tires to flinders right 
about where Doc Brumitt's auto was a-setting in the road. 

And by the time the day begun to laten off, a good dozen 
autos had blowed their tires right near that same spot on the 
Valley Road a little piece from Springhead where Old Hulett 
Crossway Uved. People cussed up and people cussed down and 
they called Old Hulett everything but a child of God. There 
wasn't the least bit of doubt who'd busted jars all over a stretch 
of Valley Road. Old Hulett had been so all-fired mad he hadn't 
fooled around trying to git empty fruit jars. Why no, he'd just 
grabbed up an armful of jars of Old Mrs. Crossway's dewberry 
jam and smashed them on the road. Doc Brumitt stuck his finger 
in the mess and tasted it and says, "It's Mrs. Crossway's jam, 
all right. There's nobody in Painter Creek Valley can make 
dewberry jam that good but Old Lady Crossway." 

So then the whole community was roused up and mad. Alvin 



44 Raring Around with the Boys 

Tuck ringleaded them in it. He said, "Look what Hulett done 
to me! Won't nobody never make me believe my wife would've 
had timns if Doc Brumitt had got there in time! Way I figger 
on it, seems like we just ought to whitecap Hulett Crossway 
good and plenty and learn him a lesson." 

And that's just what they done to Old Hulett. Sheeted 
themselves up good and went over to Springhead and got Old 
Hulett and made him clean up every last splinter of that jar- 
glass. Then they took and splashed him in Painter Creek and 
gave him a timely warning. 

That held Hulett for a year or two. Might' ve held him for- 
ever and all if it hadn't been for the Peddler. Now, the Peddler 
had him a deep-bedded two-mule wagon he used to drive into 
the Valley from Mountain City once every week. He piled 
her down with sugar and white flour, store-soap and kittles and 
such and swapped them to the farmer people for home-grown 
eggs, chickens, hams, and the like. Well, these modern times 
caught up with the Peddler and one day he came prospecting 
up Valley Road in a great big old auto with the rear end tore 
off and his wagon bed fastened up on it. He stopped by at 
Springhead to swap with Old Mrs. Crossway. 

So him and her was arguing over how many pullets it took 
to make a teakittle when Old Hulett came up from the bam. 

"How they coming, Hulett?" says the Peddler. 

Old Hulett opened his mouth to speak, then snapped it shut 
so hard that his white chin-whiskers slapped him in the eyes. 
He stood there a-glaring at the Peddler's auto. "Where'd you 
git that Locomobile?" he says. 

"Why," says the Peddler, "I swapped the old thing off of 
Pluvis Talley across the Valley and got her fixed up so's she'd 
run." 



To the Last Breath of Fight 45 

Well, Hulett was toting a set of harness, but when he heard 
where the Peddler had got the Locomobile, he just dumped 
that harness to the ground, throwed back his head, and howled 
like a stuck pig. "It's /V/" he yelled. "It's that dod-danged man- 
killing crow-bait of a devil-fired Locomobile of mine!" 

Then he jumped up and turned round in the air and cut out 
for the house after his shotgun. 

The Peddler didn't tarry. He leaped in that Locomobile and 
skinned out in a master hurry. By the time he hit Valley Road, 
the bird shot was a-whistling and a-rattling all round him. He 
scattered kittles and pans and bags of flour along the road clean 
past Luther Lee Tidwell's. If he ever came back in that end of 
Painter Creek Valley he must've done it by night, because no- 
body never spied him there no more. 

Seeing that old Locomobile just touched Old Hulett off like 
powder. Next day he laid wait in the bushes beside Valley 
Road and throwed bird-shot into every auto that drove by. He 
was still there, reeking with passion, when the deputies from 
Mountain City came scouting out for him. 

So the deputies took Old Hulett Crossway in to Mountain 
City and Esquire Settle tried him. When Esquire Settle says, 
"Are you guilty or not guilty?" Hulett blowed up and raved 
and ranted and finally he says, "Guilty as hell, and proud 
of it!" 

And Esquire Settle he did sentence and condemn Hulett 
Crossway to six months in the workhouse at hard labor. 

Luther Lee Tidwell set in on the trial and brought the word 
back to the Valley. "It's hard on Old Hulett," says Luther, 
"but it will learn him a lesson. When he gits out he'll mighty 
well go behind his barn and have his mad fits private." 

Which shows you a body never can tell. 



46 Raring Around with the Boys 

For when Old Hulett served his sentence and got out and 
came back, he wasn't noway cured. If anything, he was deader 
against autos than ever. 

He told everybody, "I'll give them things all breeds of hell 
to the last breath of fight in me. They can't git away with it, 
and you'll see, shore! " 

Hulett hadn't been out a good week till one morning the 
autos couldn't pass the near Springhead part of Valley Road 
at all. There was seven barb-wire fences built across the road, 
a dozen strands to the fence, and the big black locust posts 
about three foot apart and drove three feet in the ground and 
packed tight with gravel-cement. It must've taken Old Hulett 
and all his boys and boys-in-laws all night to do that job. Any- 
how, it took a road crew of ten all day to clear them seven 
fences off. 

So out came some deputies from Mountain City and hauled 
Old Hulett up before Esquire Settle. And Hulett said, as proud 
as if he was saying he'd saved a man from drownding, "I'm 
guilty to the notch of my britches! " Then Esquire Settle did 
sentence and condemn him to eleven months and twenty-nine 
days at hard labor in the workhouse and Old Hulett served his 
term. 

Folks back in the Valley sort of halfway knowed what to 
expect when he got out. And that made them halfway dead 
right. Old Hulett hadn't been home no more than long enough 
to change his boots before he got out with a lantern and a team 
of mules and plowed all night up and down, across and back, 
catercomered and every which way from Sunday, on the near 
Springhead stretch of Valley Road. He used a breaking plow 
and he plowed each furrow three times to the deepness of a 
man's knee. And then he sowed nails and staples and broken 



To the Last Breath of Fight 47 

glass and rusty wire and old jagged tin all over that plowed up 
mess. 

Didn't any autos git past Valley Road that day. Fact is, the 
county was a good three days fixing Valley Road up to where 
even a mule could pass over it. Of course, by that time Old 
Hulett had been hauled in to Mountain City, and Esquire Settle 
had give him eighteen months' hard labor. 

When time came for Hulett to git out, folks in the Valley 
said, "Git set! It's a-coming again! " By now these modem times 
was in the Valley plumb up to the hilt and everybody but the 
Crossways had some old sort of auto to carry them round. 

Luther Lee Tidwell said, "Mark my word, Old Hulett will 
be back in jail inside a week's time. You can't learn an old stub- 
bom toot like him nothing." 

And that just showed how little they knowed Hulett Cross- 
way after all them years. 

Now, here's the way Hulett done in the workhouse this last 
spell. They call the place workhouse, but he was one they 
never could make turn a Uck. Old Hulett wouldn't pick, he 
wouldn't shovel, he wouldn't move a hand. They could starve 
him and bully him, but it didn't matter to him. He'd just set 
down and stick his whiskers out and shake his head. So finally 
they give up trying. All Hulett done during his eighteen months 
was eat and sleep and chaw his plug tobacco. But inside of him 
he was really mighty busy. He was whetstoning his wits. 

So when he got out and went home to Springhead, and tjhe 
folks_ug and down Valley Road was between a stew and a 
sweat to see what he'd do next, why, it seemed like nothing was 
going to happen at all. It got talked around that his last jail 
term and what the star route rural free dehverance mailman 
had told Hulett had put the fear of God in him. 



48 Raring Around with the Boys 

Soon as he got out, the star route man had gone by to see 
him and said, "Hulett, I'm warning you. Twice, handrunning, 
you've held up the U.S. mail deliverance by doing like that on 
Valley Road. Well, the County jailed you for it, but you got 
out light. Next time Uncle Sam will sla2_you so far in prison 
that if they kept y ore c orpsejill doomsday you'd^tiiniave a 
hundred years to serve. So, watch yore step, Hulett." 

"Thankee for nothing," says Hulett. "You scatter yore mail 
and I'll tend to my own business." 

"I've warned you," says the star route man. 

"I've told you," says Old Hulett. 

Alvin Tuck says, "I believe to my soul Hulett is cured. It's 
a month come Thursday since he's been out of jail and he ain't 
made a pass at the road yet." 

Luther Lee Tidwell says, "Most likely you're right. I figger 
that last eighteen months queered Hulett's brains just a mite 
more than they always was. Just yesterday I was driving my 
team up Valley Road and seen Hulett plowing that steep pas- 
ture lot of his. Yes sir, here in the dead of winter! " 

"He maybe aims to plant turnips or buckwheat," says Alvin. 

"Maybe so," says Luther Lee, "but he shore is going about it 
in a peculiar way. He ain't plowing round the hill but is run- 
ning them furrows straight up and doivn" 

Well, Alvin couldn't hardly believe it, so out he went to see 
for himself. He stood down there on the road and tilted his 
head back and looked up. There was Old Hulett plowing 
straight up and down till that hUlside looked like a piece of 
pants-leg corduroy. So Alvin seen Luther Lee next day and 
said, "You shore was right. That old man is crazy as popcorn 
on a hot stove lid!" 

"Crazy to the ground!" says Luther Lee. "But, anyhow, he's 



To the Last Breath of Fight 49 

leaving the road alone. That's one advantage he has for us now." 

Well, it just did seem like nobody ever could be right when 
it came to Hulett Crossway. But nobody suspicioned that till 
one day the spring rains set in like the lining had been ripped 
out of heaven. At first it was just a cloudburst and then it was 
like the whole of the county was under a monster big waterfall 
and by night it was raining so hard that the ducks and geese 
commenced drownding. It didn't let up a drop till near morn- 
ing and then the sun came out fine and bright and hot. 

By the middle of day the star route mailman decided the 
roads was dry enough to try if he put his tire chains on. He 
came a-sludging and a-slewing down Valley Road without no 
trouble to speak of till he hit the stretch near Springhead. And 
then that poor man was outright stumped at the stand-in. 

Because, the truth is, there just ivasfi't no stretch of road near 
Springhead alongside of Old Hulett Crossway 's holdings! No, 
that rain had washed a good mile of it away absolute. Washed 
it into Painter Creek and by this time it was muddying up the 
Tennessee River halfway to Chattanooga. Never had been such 
a washout anywhere in the county. And next day folks came 
from miles around to look at it. 

During the morning the County Superintendent of Roads 
and the whole County Court of Esquires came out to look at 
the damage. Old Hulett Crossway and his wife, his boys and 
boys-in-laws and all their children and wives and dogs was 
lined up inside the Crossway fence just a-laughing and a-carry- 
ing on. 

Esquire Settle says, "That there is somehow Old Hulett's 
work I'm willing to bet my watch. And I'll shore handle him 
good for it this time. I'll give him the lawful limit. I dods, I'll 
double the lawful limit— if we find he really done it! " 



4» 



50 Raring Around with the Boys 

Luther Lee Tidwell says, "He done it, all right." 

"How you figger it?" says the Esquires. 

"Why," says Luther Lee, "he didn't do a blessed thing but 
ditch that hillside pasture of his so's the first big rain would 
gully it deep and spread them gullies down to the road and 
wash it out! " 

And everybody was so speechless that they couldn't hardly 
say a thing, for it was true and all there seen it was true. 

Right then and there the Esquires held a meeting to decide 
what to do about Hulett Crossway for good and all. They 
argued for more than an hour and done a heap of figgering. So 
finally they came to a decision and passed a new ruling and 
told the County Superintendent of Roads. 

Esquire Settle it was who told him. "Git yore men busy 
tomorrow," he says, "and run us a new county road around by 
way of Claybank." 

"What about fixing this one?" he says. 

"Well," says Esquire Settle, "we figger to leave it just like it 
is now. Forgit this stretch, that's all." 

"How coine, Esquire?" says the Superintendent. 

"Well," says Esquire Settle, "the County Court looks at it 
this way. It's already costed the county near a thousand dollars 
to keep Hulett in jail them three times. He won't work to pay 
for his staying, so he's just an expense to the county. 

"That ain't all," says Esquire Settle. "It's costed the County 
over two hundred dollars to patch up the road them two first 
times Hulett tore it up. It'd cost at least three thousand more 
to build this washed-out stretch back to where it was. It'd cost 
another thousand to put Hulett in jail again. And when he got 
out he'd figger up some new way to rip up the road and that 
would cost the Lord knows how much and then we'd have to 



To the Last Breath of Fight 51 

jail Hulett some more and pay his board and then he'd git out 
and tear up the road and it would cost still more to repair it and 
then-" 

The Esquire looked right dizzy and had to stop a minute. 

"To make a long song short," he says, "here's the pleasure 
of the County Court. Hulett's old but well^saved. He'll likely 
live to be a hundred. By that time the county will be bankrupt 
just supporting Hulett in jail and repairing this stretch of road 
when he tears it up. Us Esquires is practical men. We know 
when we're licked. So run the road round by way of Claybank 
and forgit this part here." 

And if that ain't the very thing they done, may God bless the 
Devil! 

So next morning Old Hulett and his boys and boys-in-laws 
was all out bright and early on what little was left of the road 
at each end of the washout. They plowed it up. Then they 
planted thistles. 

E. E. Miller 



James R. Aswell 





Comb Him 
Wet or Dry 



EPHRAM GILKY SURE WAS A CARD. HE'D DONE 

more funny things than most anybody that ever lived in the 
Valley, I reckon. A practical joker some called him, and he 
was that for a fact. He got more fun out of it than most any- 
body ever gits out of anything. 

He could ape the preacher that came over to preach from 
further over in the Valley once a month. So ever once in oc- 
casion he would git up on a nail keg at the store, when a big 
bunch of loafers was setting around, and preach one of the 
gol-dumdest sermons a body ever heard. Ephram wasn't none 
rehgious his self but a body that didn't know him and heard 
him quoting the Word from the Book would just naturally 
think he was one of the most convertedest saints. 

Sometimes he would even call on some make-like deacon in 

52 



Comb Him Wet or Dry 53 

the Amen comer of the store to pass the hat around for col- 
lection to "take care of the pore preacher's family that was 
rf^-pendent on the mercy of the people." Course, all that was 
ever put in it was a staple-nail or a buckeye ball, most likely. 

But one time when one of them store drummers that come 
around about twice a year was in the store, Ephram started in 
on the Holy Ghost and all the trimmings about it. Well, that 
drummer clean forgot what he was supposed to be doing and 
just listened in on the make-like sermon that he thought was 
real. Well, sir, when somebody passed the hat as usual, they 
passed it to the drummer feller first, and what do you reckon 
he done? Well, he flipped in a half a dollar. 

Now, that hacked Ephram for the first time anybody around 
ever knowed of him being hacked. Some of the dyed-in-the- 
wool church-goers thought it would sure cure him of blas- 
pheming, which was what they thought he done when he 
aped the preacher like that. But it wasn't long till he was at it 
again. Ephram never meant no harm, noways. They wasn't a 
better soul in the Valley when it come to helping out with the 
Valley things like log-rolling or house-raising than Ephram. 

He sent off once and got some reading about how to throw 
his voice. Unbeknowing to everybody, he done that. And then 
* things livened up considerable. He even made his old lady 
think one time that their house was hanted. He got to moan- 
ing and groaning around and made like all them rackets was 
coming from in under the bed. He done it in special after 
she got in the bed at night. Well, that pore woman got so 
nervous she wouldn't let Ephram leave the house of a night, and 
he did like to hang around here and yon, so he had to confess 
up to her about the voice-throwing. Course, she flew mad about 
it and told folks what he was doing and that's how it got out. 



54 Raring Around with the Boys 

But the day they had the auction of a estate over at the county 
seat was about the beatenest thing a body ever saw. Some old 
folks had died and the heirs that lived clean over in another 
county wanted the property liquidfied. So they was having a 
auction, and everbody went over— that is nearly everbody. 
Anyways, Ephram was there. 

Well, the auctioneer got up there and started selling things 
off. A cook stove, a wash pot, and a heap of things. Then he 
come to the antiquish things. Them old things, heir-looms, some 
folks call them. 

Then the fun started. A pretty nice looking old woman 
started bidding on a set of dog-irons. Well this old woman 
had been bidding on most everthing there and just run the bids 
up high, but always let the other feller tote off the goods. 
Ephram figgered she didn't have no cash and was just a put-on. 
At least that's what he said later on that he figgered. 

Now there was one thing about him. Ephram didn't like no 
putting-on people. "Be what you are whether it's nigger or 
dog," was what he said. He was just as plain as an old shoe. 

So outside of having some fun, he wanted to set her down a 
peg or two. So when they started bidding on them dog-irons, 
he knowed people would more than likely bid a right smart 
on them, on account of them being in the heir-loom class. The 
auction man said they was heir-looms. 

Well, Ephram he waited until this here smart-alec woman 
started bidding. He waited until the price got up to nine dol- 
lars. Then he struck. "Nine-fifty," he said in a real society- 
like voice, just like that priss-ike woman done. Then he looked 
right at her. Naturally some folks that seen him looking at 
her looked that way, too, and everybody else thought she'd bid, 
which was natural on account of her already bidding on so 



Comb Him Wet or Dry 55 

many things up to a certain point. Well, nobody said nothing 
for a minute, and that woman got flusterated. 

"Who will bid more on these gen-u-ine brass andirons?" the 
auctioneering man said. "It's a pity to let them go for a third 
of what they're worth. How much am I bid?" 

Then somebody bid way over in the far side of the crowd. 
"Ten dollars," they said, whoever it was. 

"Ten-fifty," that priss-ike voice said again. Course Ephram 
looked at that old hen again, a-drawing attention to her some 
more. Well, she twisted around and fluttered about right much 
and looked at everbody around her like she was sort of stumped. 
But didn't nobody pay her no mind. Somebody else just went 
on and bid higher. 

That kept up until them dog-irons was "sold to the woman 
with the plumes on her hat for fifteen dollars," and she looked 
like she was pretty mortified about it. 

"I didn't bid on those andirons!" the woman said. "I didn't 
bid on those andirons after it got to nine dollars." 

That auctioneering man looked right stern at her. "You 
mighty well did, mam, I heard you," he said. "But, of course, 
if you don't want them, I can auction them over again later." 

Which he did. 

Well, same thing happened again on a old dresser. Only the 
auctioneer man called it a high-boy and he said, "Gone to the 
lady with the plumes on her hat." She looked a little bit flus- 
terated again. 

"I guess you didn't bid again did you, mam?" was what the 
auctioneer man said to her. 

"I did, but not last!" she sort of snapped back at him 
and the crowd sniggered and tittered and nudged each other 
around. 




"Well, I didn't bid last," she said, "and I think something 
funny is going on around here, too," and she looked right smack 
at Ephram. Everybody else did, too. 

"This man here is an imposter!" That's just what the lady 
called Ephram. An imposter. And when the auction man 
wanted to know on what ground she accused Ephram, she 
upped and said, just as uppity as an old dame can, that he was a 
ventriloquist. That meant he could throw his voice and make it 
sound like she was talking when she hadn't said a word. 

Well, Ephram seen he was getting hemmed in and he started 
to sneak off, but a Law grabbed him. 

Now, Ephram hadn't never been bothered by no Law before 
and he looked plenty scared. But he decided to confess up. So 
he told the Law what he meant to do. Just hack her on account 
of him thinking she was just running up them bids and didn't 
have no money. 



Comb Him Wet or Dry 57 

That Law looked plenty hard at Ephram, "Just a little prac- 
tical joker, eh?" says he. "Well, we don't take no fancy to your 
kind! I aim to take you up for a public nuisance." 

And he did. He locked Ephram up in the county seat jail. 
Now that hurt Ephram's pride. He hadn't never been put in 
no jail before, and he didn't know how he could get out be- 
cause he didn't have no money, nor did his friends. 

It wasn't out of the common for them to have people to 
get arrested over at the county seat. That's why that Law was 
so quick to lock up Ephram. Everbody got a little fee for ever- 
thing they done so they liked to get people in for the least 
puny thing. Well, Ephram knowed that and he knowed the 
money was all they wanted. 

Well, everbody was strolling in and out the jail to see the 
man what got picked up. They walked past Ephram's cell and 
looked him over Uke he was a animal in a cage, and Ephram got 
an idea. 

He begin to preach. 

"Judge not that ye be not judged" was his text he took. And 
the folks begin to listen to him. He made them all think he was 
a preacher. He said verses just word for word like in the Bible 
itself. 

Well, somebody from over in the Valley that knowed 
Ephram got what Ephram was driving at. So they passed a 
hat and the dimes and things begin to chink into it. Them 
people was worked up over what Ephram had done preached 
about. Well, Ephram preached a while longer and the hat was 
passed again on account of some more people had come in 
from the outside. And they got more money. Must have been 
ten dollars in all. 

About that time the jailer came in. He seen all of that crowd. 




"Clean out of here, all of you!" He pulled out a gun and said 
right loud and scared-like, "Ain't nobody going to lynch this 
man!" Well, the folks just hee-hawed at that! 

"Lynch him! We aim to turn him loose!" somebody said 
and everbody laughed loud at that. That jailer looked scared. 

"Not out of my jail, you ain't! " says he. "This man aims to 
pay me five dollars' fine first." 

Well, Ephram begin to count out five dollars, all in chicken 
feed change. That jailer looked clean swept up and scattered. 
He knowed Ephram never had that money when he locked him 
up. But he turned the key and let Ephram out. Still and all, 
Ephram wasn't through putting on that show. He never did 
do nothing halfway. So soon as he got out he started all over 
again. 

"Thanks for the use of your jail to preach in," was what 
Ephram said. 



Comb Him Wet or Dry 59 

Well, that jailer's lower jaw dropped about a foot and his 
mouth was a-gaping open like a cave. 

So Ephram throwed his voice right over into that jailer and 
said, "You're mighty well welcome, and I appreciate this fee 
a heap," and everybody hee-hawed some more. Well, that jailer 
got so blasted mad he was ready to spit fire, and he did nearly 
when Ephram said something else. 

"Come on over, folks," says he, "to the saloon. All drinks is 
on me. We still got five dollars." 

Somebody allowed it was sort of a church collection and 
couldn't be used in no saloon to get drinks. 

"Well," says Ephram, "we had our preaching so now we 
aim to have the sacrament." 

That Ephram Gilky was sure a card— comb him wet or dry. 

Julia Willhoit 



Something to 
Pass Out free 




COME WHAT MIGHT, ONE MAN THAT NEVER 
missed a race out at old Walnut Track was Old Lacey Bridges. 
And I doubt if ever he put out a dime to get on the grounds— 
not counting the time I'm talking about when he was working 
out there for himself. Yes, Old Lacey had a sight of friends, 
they knowed he's a fool about horses, and one way or another 
they'd slide him by the gatekeeper every year. He never did 
have no money to pay himself in, seemed like he just wasn't 
cut out to make money. And that was the main sore spot with 
his wife, him not ever making a living for the two of them. They 
didn't have no kids, just themselves to keep up, but still not a 

60 



Something to Pass Out Free 6i 

year come around that his folks or hers, or maybe friends didn't 
have to see them through it. 

This time I'm trying to get down to, she said, "I just don't 
see how we're going to make it this winter. Summer's hard 
enough without money, but there's some things a body can't 
hve without in winter." 

Old Lacey didn't say a word. He knew when he saw her 
come charging down through the front yard like a mad bull, 
toward where he was setting there resting under the maple tree 
—he knowed he's in for some deviling. He just rocked back 
and forth in the old wicker rocker, taking his time, while his 
little nigger Timon didn't miss a swish with that turkey-tail fan. 

"Every year it's the same," his wife went on. "Beg and bor- 
row, beg and borrow, piling up a load of debts we'll never get 
paid. I'm near about shamed to face folks even in the Lord's 
house, and there's precious few places I go besides church." 

Then Old Lacey looked his nagging wife in the eye and says, 
"You're going to get through this winter. And it ain't going 
to be on borrowed money, neither." 

He wouldn't say another word, for all her hour's questioning. 

And Old Lacey got right up out of that rocking chair and 
him and Timon hitched up his horse and buggy and was off 
to town. Old Lacey was a good talker and he had a sight of 
friends. In no time he'd talked somebody into lending him 
money for laying in a pretty fair stock of whiskey and wine. 
And in less than thirty minutes after he'd contracted for it, him 
and Timon was heading down the big road home. 

"What you gwine do wid em spirits. Mister Lacey?" Timon 
asked. 

Old Lacey said, "Sell em at the race track, of course. And 
we got to have something to pass out free, son. It's the fellow 



6i Raring Around with the Boys 

with something free that gets trade around a race track or any- 
where else folks gather for fun. But I know one thing. I just 
don't aim to give away whiskey and wine what's cost me 
money." 

Timon said, "Ol Miss she got some blackberry wine down in 
de cellar. Six or seven gallon of hit." 

So Old Lacey he just winked. Said he, "No use to ask her for 
it, Timon. Me and you'll sort of slip it out on the side." 

"She aim to give it to de new parson for de church drinks," 
Timon says. 

Old Lacey laughed aloud. "Then," says he, "if that new par- 
son wants a taste of that blackberry wine, he'd better be getting 
himself a pass to the races." 

Old Lacey and that little nigger Timon must have made fifty 
trips back and forth out to Walnut Track getting the bar set 
up at the proper spot beside the fence rail. And when they got 
it fixed up to suit Old Lacey, they carted the drinks out there 
and carried the last gallon of Old Mrs. Bridges' blackberry wine 
right along with the whiskey and the store-bought wine. 

Folks came from miles around on horseback, in wagons, and 
on foot. Country folks were on hand by sun-up with their 
basket lunches, babies, dogs, and all. An hour or two ahead 
of time, city folks began to show up in their fine carriages. They 
switched off down to the stables to look the horses over, then 
went and put up a bet on their choice, and ended up back where 
everybody could see them strut in their fine clothes. 

When time came to open up. Old Lacey poured the black- 
berry wine in a nice clean lardstand, put a water dipper in it, 
and about a dozen tin cups around so folks would feel free to 
help themselves. Right close by there was the whiskey barrel 
with a fancy little brass spigot to it. 



Something to Pass Out Free 63 

The minute he turned his back, he heard Timon giggUng and 
he turned around and said, "The Devil and Tom Walker, 
Timon! Stop fingering that turner!" He saw Timon was fool- 
ing with the whiskey barrel. "God Almighty! I ain't going to 
have all that good liquor wetting up the ground!" 

And Timon took his hands off it for the time being, but not 
for long. He couldn't keep his fingers off it to save his soul. 
But he didn't let any more of the liquor drip to the ground 
after Old Lacey had cussed him out. He'd just watch for his 
chance when Old Lacey was busy talking, then he'd reach and 
take the dipper from the wine bucket to catch what came out 
the whiskey barrel when he gave the brass trick a good turn. 
Then when he saw Old Lacey looking his way, he'd just ease 
the dipper— half the time it was plumb full of whiskey— into 
the wine bucket. He'd pretend he was getting ready to pass 
out a free drink. There's just no telling how much of that good 
whiskey Timon dumped into that blackberry wine. 

"Take two cups of it if it suits your taste!" Old Lacey said 
when the crowd started gathering. "Won't cost you a penny to 
drink that good wine!" 

More than one took two cups and more. One of the jockeys 
kept going away and then coming back for another. First thing 
you know, this jockey up and started to taking off his clothes. 
Well, somebody dragged him off before any of the ladies 
fainted. 

Now, Old Lacey had been dipping himself up one of those 
free cups every time he passed one out. He was about to the 
point where he didn't know whether he was Lacey Bridges or 
the jockey folks was mirating over for not having on any 
clothes. So he just shed off his white apron and put on the 
rider's coat hke he knew what he was doing and kept right on 



Something to Pass Out Free 6$ 

drinking the wine with the next fellow that came up for a free 
drink. By the time the races started, he wasn't in any shape to 
see what was going on. The fact of the business was, he'd 
dropped off to sleep in that old wicker rocker he had back of 
the bar. 

"De bosses is gitting ready. Mister Lacey," Timon said. He 
kept trying and trying to rouse him up. "Dey's nigh bout ready 
to git off." 

But it didn't do any good to talk horses or anything else to 
Old Lacey. He kept right on sleeping like he was in his own 
front private yard. 

There was a fine lot of race horses out to Walnut that day. 
One of them, though, wasn't in the same class with the rest— 
a filly that didn't have any business being in the crowd she was 
running with. They called her Lady Jane and she did have 
speed now and then, but was a sight short of brains to go with 
her good legs. Yes, she was just about the longest long shot in 
the bunch. 

Well, it was in the first race Lady Jane was in that what I'm 
talking about took place. There she was away, way back at the 
hind end trailing, and most of the horses was getting ready to 
round the last lap before the home stretch. 

Now, one jockey up there thought he saw a chance to get 
in the center of the track for the finish. He cut right sharp across 
in front of the bunch. And then the whole lot of them piled up 
in such a mess as nobody ever saw before. Half the horses to the 
front piled up right on top of the first two that went down. The 
whole thing took place right at the turn of the track where Old 
Lacey's bar was. 

Well, instead of just clearing the pile and taking her time 
getting down the home-stretch while the rest of the horses 



66 Raring Around "with the Boys 

were mixed up, Lady Jane came running up there like she might 
be headed for first place. She gave a big jump and went clear 
over the fence rail. She threw the boy that was riding her and 
knocked Old Lacey's bar to splinters. 

"Whoa, there, Lady Jane! Whoa!" that little nigger Timon 
bellowed loud enough to wake the dead. He made a pass and 
got her bridle when she went down. 

Folks scattered every which way to keep from getting 
tromped on. The jockey went through the air, head over heels. 

"Hold her, son, hold her!" Old Lacey yelled. He came up 
out of his rocker just in time to see the bar move away from 
him. "Hold onto her! We'll make it!" he says. 

Seemed Hke Old Lacey'd been dreaming. Dreamed his nag- 
ging wife was after him and gaining. So before folks knew 
what was in his head. Old Lacey jumped right up in that saddle. 

Lady Jane must have thought heaven and earth had set down 
on her back all of a sudden. Anyway, she leaped right back over 
the fence with Old Lacey astride. 

The two of them headed down the home stretch like Hell 
turned loose and the Devil chasing to catch up with it. And 
there wasn't a thing in the world wrong with the way Old 
Lacey was riding to keep the Devil or his wife or whatever it 
was after him from catching up, neither. He humped himself 
right over that filly's neck and headed her into first place. 
Lord Almighty, how those few folks who had picked Lady 
Jane and put her across the board on a long shot carried on. 

And Old Lacey stayed right there in the saddle and stacked 
up them next two heats just like he did the first one— him 
and Lady Jane right in front place. When he came off the track 
at the end of the race, there wasn't a thing for him to do but 
name his price for riding and he did it. It was sort of irregular 



Something to Pass Out Free 67 

but everybody liked Old Lacey, so they let it pass and de- 
clared him the winner. 

I don't know to a dime what the owner of Lady Jane gave 
him, but in those days a hundred dollars went about twice as 
far as a thousand does this day and time. Anyhow, what he had 
was more than enough to see him and his wife and Timon 
through the winter. He didn't have to borrow a red cent from 
anybody till the winter after that. 

Jennette Edwards 





bhett Golightly's Heavy Debt 

UNCLE ISHEN GOLIGHTLY NEVER WENT LIGHT 

on nothing in his whole hfe. Just as sure as he started to do a 
thing he went the whole hog or none, and when he got a notion 
in his head the Devil and Tom Walker couldn't git it out. 

There's that idea of his about eating. He claimed he wasn't 
going to die in debt to his stummick for the good Lord says, 
"Eat, and be merry, for tomorrow you might die," and when 
the Lord tells a man to eat, he don't mean no finicky appetite. 
Well, Aunt Becky, his wife, says she knowed she fed him a 
plenty and too much for a little man like Uncle Ishen. She got 
exasperated with him and says it shore takes a Christian woman 
to live with a man like Uncle Ishen. 

Looked Hke Uncle Ishen just couldn't never be satisfied with 

68 



Ishen Golightly^s Heavy Debt 69 

nothing in moderation. Just look at them quare shoes he wore. 
Bless your sweet life he wouldn't wear boots Hke nobody else, 
not him! When he got a new pair, if they was give to him or 
if he bought them, it was all the same to Uncle Ishen. He just 
took them spanking new boots and cut off the tops and cut 
them into strings. He slashed the bottoms and through them 
openings he run the leather strings and tied them into knots, and 
knots, and knots till he had the most outlandish whanged mess 
you ever seen. 

Once he went to the tanyard and got a whole passel of leather 
strings. He worked for days and days and when he got through 
you ain't never seen such a mess. Each shoe must have weighed 
at least ten pounds. He was happy as a pig in a sallet-bed and 
he says to Aunt Becky, "Now I'm fixed for awhile. No danger 
of flying yet. I'm weighted down good now." 

So when Uncle Ishen went lumbering down the road with 
them shoes on, women would drop their cooking, dishwashing, 
or whatever they was doing, and run to the door to see him. 
Little boys and big ones would run after him and the men set- 
ting on the store porch would call out, "You sure ain't going 
to fly today. Uncle Ishen. You must still owe that debt." 

Then Uncle Ishen would always say, "That is sure the truth. 
It ain't paid yet." Then and there he'd make up his mind which 
one of them fellers was going to have company the next day, 
and the next morning the feller who called to him would be 
certain to have Uncle Ishen come to his house for breakfast. 

Now the menfolks didn't mind so much for they thought it 
a joke to send Uncle Ishen away just stuffed like a turkey fowl 
on a Christmas day, but the womenfolks had the cooking to do 
and they just naturally tore at the bit when they seen him com- 
ing. One of the children would come running into the house 



70 Raring Around with the Boys 

yelling, "Mammy, yonder comes Uncle Ishen! Better git the 
fire a-going and the pot a-biling! " 

And the Mizzis would say, "Yes, bring in the smokehouse, 
for your pap will just see how much he can stuff into that old 
man's gullet. Never seen such a glutton in all my life. Some 
of these days he's just going to do his self a mischief just from 
eating too much." 

Well, Uncle Ishen didn't never need no urging. Of course 
he'd always pretend he was just sort of passing by and dropped 
in to pass the time of day. 

So the man of the house would say polite-like, "Uncle Ishen, 
draw your cheer up and eat a bite." 

Sometimes the wife would try to head him off by saying, 

"Guess Uncle Ishen's et, for he's one of these early birds 
that gits up and goes about his business." 

But it wouldn't stave off Uncle Ishen. Not a bit of it! No, 
he'd just grin-like and say, "I declare Becky gits stingier and 
stingier all the time. She didn't give me but two rashers of ham 
and four eggs this morning. She lowed that was enough for 
any man and when I asked for the fourth cup of coffee she 
fairly blowed up. I told her it were a disgrace when a man 
couldn't git enough to eat at his own house. So guess I can hold 
a little mite more just to be friendly-like." 

Then he'd pull up that chair to the table and unloosen his 
belt, and to see him eat you'd thought he'd never had a bite for 
days. 

All the children would gather around and agg the old man 
on. Rasher and rasher of side meat, biscuits by the dozen, and 
no less than ten eggs and six cups of coffee would Uncle Ishen 
eat for one breakfast. 

Then he'd start for home, but if he passed another neighbor's 



Ishen Golightly^s Heavy Debt 71 

house who was having a later breakfast he'd just have to drop in 
and pass the time of day with them, and so he'd go until some 
days he'd eat as many as four breakfasts. 

People kept telling Uncle Ishen he was going to eat one meal 
too many. Because no natural stummick could stand the way he 
treated his. But he would always say, "Can't be hoped. God 
give a man a longing to eat. I ain't going to die in debt to my 
stummick. Seems to me it's a kind of a godly duty to try and pay 
that heavy debt." 

Now, there was a big picnic and barbecue when Sam Tipple- 
toe was elected representative from the county. Every wag in 
the county came, so some of the boys made it up to see just 
how much old Uncle Ishen could eat. Now these young rascals 
. meant no harm. They just wanted to have some fun. 

Well, Uncle Ishen he was on the ground early, and spent the 
whole morning near the barbecue pit. Long about twelve 
o'clock when all the speaking was over, two of the Borden boys 
come up and took Uncle Ishen by the arm and led him to the 
speakers' platform and set him down. 

Ned Borden, as mischievous a sprig as ever drawed a breath, 
he says, "Now, Uncle Ishen, we aim to see that you pay off 
that debt to your stummick today. You just set right here and 
we'll bring you all you can eat." 

That little dried-up old man rubbed his belly and grinned. 
"It'll take a lot, boys! " he says. "I didn't git but only one break- 
fast this morning. So bring on the rations and be sure you don't 
skimp the barbecue." 

Several other boys joined the Borden boys when they found 
out what was going on. They lined up with such a load of 
victuals as you never seen. One of them toted a heaped-up dish 
of barbecue, another one a pile of fried chicken, and another 




one a platter of boiled country ham. Then come others with 
potato salad, a whole pan of thick soggy sodie biscuits, and 
com-lightbread. One little fellow brought a quart jar of 
peach pickle, and another hardly large enough to carry the pan, 
come along with a pan filled with good old chicken and dump- 
lings. 

Uncle Ishen he looked around at the crowd. Then he looked 
down at the food placed all around him. He smacked his lips 



Ishen Golightly^s Heavy Debt 73 

and lit in. First he snatched up a big hunk of barbecue and put 
it between two sHces of com-hghtbread, then he yanked a big 
chicken drumstick with the other hand. There he set eating a 
bite first from one hand and then from the other. 

He'd just about et half of that food, when he seemed to miss 
something. He turned to one of the boys and says, "Where's 
them deviled eggs? I ain't never heard of a barbecue without 
deviled eggs." 

Joe Borden yelled, "All right. Uncle Ishen. I'll git you some," 
and off he started, but he didn't go far until Uncle Ishen's 
preacher brother Peter stopped him. 

"Now look here, Joe," says the preacher, "you know what 
an old fool Ishen is. Why, he'll set there eating as long as you 
bring it to him. If you keep on you'll kill the old fool. Now 
just you boys stop!" 

But Joe he says, "Now, Brother Peter, you know we ain't 
a-going to hurt Uncle Ishen. He can't eat no more than he can, 
so let the old man have all he wants." 

So then the womenfolks gathered round and tried to git the 
boys to stop. "Sure as you are living," they says, "you boys is 
a-going to kill that old man. He'll not live till tomorrow if you 
don't stop." 

But nothing could stop the boys. After Uncle Ishen had et 
all that meat and stuff, they piled him full of cake and pie. You 
just couldn't see where such a little man could put so much. He 
was that full he could hardly git off the platform. Brother Peter 
kept asking him how'd he feel. 

Uncle Ishen says, "Fine! Ain't never had such a good time!" 

Then a httle tyke who had been watching the fun come up 
to him and said, "Uncle Ishen, here's a poke of candy. Bet you 
can't eat it." 



74 Raring Around "with the Boys 

The crowd was in a maze when Uncle Ishen took the poke 
of candy and set down under a tree and et every last piece of it. 
Such a commotion went on among the women. 

"It's a shame!" they says. 

"It's murder! For that man will sure be bound to die from 
eating so much." 

Everybody was talking and predicting that he'd be sick unto 
death, but Uncle Ishen paid no mind to any of them. He just 
set under a tree and went sound asleep. 

Long middle of the evening, a cloud come up and looked 
mighty threatening. Everybody begun to get ready to go home. 
The wind rose, and the clouds hung low. Brother Peter went 
to wake up Uncle Ishen. First thing Brother Peter thought 
when he seen him lying there was that he was dead but when 
he shook him and got him half awake, Uncle Ishen says, "Bring 
it on, boys. My stummick ain't paid yet." 

Brother Peter shook him good. "You fool," he says, "come 
on home. A storm's a-coming up and you need to git home 
where Becky can look after you. You're going to be sicker 
than a dog." 

So Uncle Ishen stumbled to his feet and looked round at the 
crowd and said, "Well, folks, my stummick ain't paid yet. 
That was just an installment that was past due. I'll pay the next 
one at the next gathering." 

About that time Joe Borden come running up with a whole 
ham and a loaf of bread. "No need to wait, Uncle Ishen," says 
he. "Just take you this and pay it off now." 

Says Uncle Ishen, "Why thankee, Joe. I'll do that very 
thing." 

So he took the ham and shoved the butt end under his chin 
and held the shank end with his left hand like a fiddler holds a 



Ishen Golightly^s Heavy Debt 75 

fiddle. He stuck the loaf of bread in his shirt. Then he cut off 
a hunk of ham with his pocketknife and pulled off a chunk of 
bread and stuffed his mouth with them. The crowd stood and 
watched him as he went down the road, and as far as they could 
see he was eating on the ham and bread. 

Everybody started home, all talking about Uncle Ishen, and 
telling theirselves that Uncle Ishen was sure to be a mighty 
sick man that night if he lived and many thought likely as not 
he wouldn't hve. 

Well, that storm growed worse and the wind most blew a 
hurricane. Uncle Ishen dragged his self along. With them 
whanged shoes weighing ten pounds apiece and all that food 
he'd guzzled, it was just about all he could do to climb that 
little hill up to his house. He got to the gate and just couldn't 
go no further. So he leaned against that big old oak tree to rest a 
spell. Finally he dragged his self into the house. Aunt Becky was 
waiting for him and when she seen him come in with that ham 
bone she squealed, "What in tarnation you doing with a old 
ham bone?" 

Uncle Ishen looked at the bone and says, "I'll be juggers 
if I ain't et the whole dam thing. Them Borden boys give me 
the ham as I was leaving the barbecue and I just minced like 
on it as I come home. Didn't know I'd et it all." 

Then he set and stared and finally says, "Doggone if I ain't 
gitting sort of sharp-set again, Becky. Why'd you have to bring 
up eating like that? 

"Think I'd like to have some of that good old kraut of your 
making. How about it, old woman?" 

He got up and started to the door and Aunt Becky was mad 
as a hornet by this time, so she pushed him out and slammed the 
door. 



76 Raring Around with the Boys 

"Now," says she, "you can just stay in the smokehouse all 
night, and if you git sick, just eat some more kraut." 

So the next morning Aunt Becky saw that Uncle Ishen didn't 
come in and Aunt Becky felt sorry she'd been so hard on him. 
So she went out to see about him. And she found him lying 
near the kraut barrel with his head up against it and his eyes star- 
ing. She didn't have to look but once to know Uncle Ishen 
was dead. She was mighty tore up about it and blamed herself. 

Poor old Uncle Ishen! That streak of lightning had hit him 
just as he was a-fixing to dip the big wooden fork down into 
the kraut barrel. 

Most folks says the good Lord just took him away before he 
killed his self trying to pay that debt to his stummick. He was 
struck dead before he could taste a bite. 

Lena E. Lipscomb 




He<oon 




WHEN YOUNG DOC MYRICK GOT THROUGH 

with his schooling, he says, "I've got to start my practice some- 
where but I declare I don't know where to do it. I don't want 
just measles and croup and bold hives and truck like that. I 
aim to be a real surgery and you don't get so many cases that 
call for cutting herebouts." 

Somebody asked him, "Reckon gunshot wounds and butcher- 
knife cuts would do you?" 

"Oh sure. Anything Hke that," says Doc. 

"Well, the place for you is the Nation. It's the roughest part 
of McNairy County. They have more knife brawls and shoot- 
ings in a week down there than happens in a year around here. 

77 



7 8 Raring Around with the Boys 

The place was settled by old Fielding Hurst and his bush- 
whackers and it's been wild and woolly ever since. So if it's 
slashings and slug-holes you want to practice on, you sure 
ought to go to the Nation." 

It sounded good to Doc Myrick and he got himself together 
and went to the Nation. He went back into the hills for miles 
to Muscadine Ridge and rented half of a hound-run cabin 
from some folks named Biles. He had his office and living quar- 
ters in that wing and the Biles lived in the other. He eat his 
meals with them and Mammy Biles done his housekeeping, such 
as it was. 

Right in from the start Doc Myrick had his hands full. He'd 
come to the Nation for practice and he got it. He ^ot every 
brawl case that could be brought to him in one jpiece and^t_ 
times he downright had seamstress' cramp from stitching up 
wounds. Oftentimes a man would be too chewed up with buck- 
shot to be sewed and then Doc would have to sort of darn Hrn. 

"Hit air a real comfort to have a doc in here," the folks said. 

One night after a hard day Doc was setting in the Biles's 
side of the cabin talking when somebody beat on the door. 

Pap Biles went to the door and took the bar down and un- 
hitched the chains and unlocked the big old padlock and opened 
up. "Who all?" he says. Then he turned white and crawfished 
backwards from the door. 

"Why, come in. Cap," he says. "Have a cheer and take a seat. 
Cap." 

So who come through that door but Cap Shankle himself, the 
he-coon of Muscadine Ridge and the hardest-favored, brawling- 
est, slayingest man in the whole Nation. Cap was a mean-un 
and he looked a mean-un. About five foot five, he was, weigh- 



He-Coon 79 

ing anyhow two hundred pounds. His face was all covered 
with brindled hair as stiff as a wire brush and he had hands the 
size of skillets. He was platt-eyed in his left eye and the other 
one squinted. There was two whetstoned butcher knives in his 
belt and a big old oily Colt's forty-five in a holster. Doc had 
heard plenty about Cap Shankle but hadn't never seen him 
before. 

So Cap stood blinking in the lamplight while Pap and 
Mammy Biles gathered up the young'uns and scooted out the 
side door. He give Doc a hard scowl, let fly a slew of ambeer 
into Mammy's Biles' washtub, and says, "You the Doc?" 

"I am that," says Doc Myrick. 

Cap says, "Then come on. My old mammy's having the 
miseries and you're the man can ease her." 

"All right," says Doc. "Wait till I get my bag." 

"Git it in a rush," says Cap, "if you know what's good for 
you." 

The Shankles lived across the ridge in Snuff Dip Holler about 
an hour's good walk from the Biles's cabin. Cap kicked the 
front door open and pushed Doc inside. There was a little old 
ratty-haired woman propping on her elbow in a big four-poster 
bed and she said, "This here young feller the doc? Why, Cap, 
he ain't even got no sideburn whiskers on him!" 

Doc says, "I'll grow them later, ma'am. People would feel it 
was put-on if I growed them yet." 

The old lady pointed her finger at Doc and says, "Air you 
up on all kind of miseries, young feller?" 

Doc says he was. 

"Well," says she, "these here of mine ain't no little piddling 
common-run miseries. Everything ever I done I always done 



8o Raring Around with the Boys 

better than anybody else. So when hit come to raising the 
miseries, I just naturally raised the biggest crop in the whole 
dad-burned Nation." 

Then the old lady told him about her symptoms. And she had 
a plenty! She had symptoms of everything from tetter to the 
jaunders. So Doc figgered she didn't have nothing at all the 
matter with her but her age and imagination. 

"Hit used to be," says she, "I could keep my miseries whit- 
tled down to where I could abide them. Used to be an old half- 
Chickasaw Injun womem around here would make me up a 
jug of yarb medicine every once in so often, good strong stuff 
that set you on fire and burnt out the humors in your blood. 
But that old womem up and died on me. I just ain't done no 
good since then, neither. Tried all sorts and kinds of medicine, 
but none of hit's got any power. So my miseries aches and 
aches." 

"I think I know your trouble, Mrs. Shankle," Doc Myrick 
tells her, "and just the medicine for it. I'll fix you up a bottle of 
good strong stuff and send it over." 

The old lady set up and says, "Cap, you go with the doc 
and git my bottle of remedy. And you hurry back, hear me. 
Cap!" 

Well, the long and short of it was that Doc took a bottle 
of com-likker and dumped a power of bitter stuff and green 
coloring into it— nothing to do no damage, of course, but it 
did make a red-hot taste. One swig would knock the top of 
your head off, pretty near. 

He told Cap, "Your mammy can have as much of this as she 
wants." 

Says Cap, "You're mightily dod-dum right, she can! Better 



He-Coon 8 1 

not no man say nowise else in 7ny hearing! " Then he went on 
off without so much as a thank-you to young Doc Myrick. 

Doc didn't think no more about it till the first of the month. 
Then he made out a bill for a dollar and sent it over to Snuff 
Dip Holler. He give it to Dewey Biles who was the Biles's big 
simple-wit teen-boy. 

After supper that night Doc was setting at the table with 
the Biles, letting his meal settle down, when Dewey says, "I sure 
taken them duns around today, didn't I, Doc?" 

"Yep," says Doc, "you did now, Dewey." 

Dewey felt awful proud of himself, so he says, "Yes sir! I 
taken one to the Jurdans and one to the Garners and one to the 
Shankles— " 

Pap Biles stopped him right there. "Oh, shet your fool mouth, 
Dewey. I swear! You know you never done no such of a thing 
as take a dun to Cap Shankle." 

"Why I sure done it, too!" says Dewey. "Doc given me one 
to take to the Shankles and that's just what I done." 

"Why you lying little half-hammered idiot! " says Pap. "Doc, 
what makes that boy tell such stretchers?" 

Doc says, "The boy ain't lying. Pap. I sent a bill to Cap 
Shankle. Why not? He owes it." 

Pap Biles almost fell out of his chair. He says, "Why, great 
man alive! Sending Cap Shankle a dun! Oh, my days and 
times. . . ! " 

Mammy Biles dropped a plate and broke it. Her face turned 
pale, then sickly yellow, and then white again. 

Doc says, "You don't mean to tell me . . . ?" 

"Yes I do!" groans Pap. "I'm telling you right. Doc, if you 
aim to see tomorrow's morning, you just better git up and dust 



82 Raring Around with the Boys 

for somewheres away far-off! Cap Shankle will bore you a new 
one just as sure as I'm setting on this cheer right now! My gub! 
Sending a dun to Cap Shankle! Aw!" 

Doc felt kind of uneasy but he just laughed at the bug-eyed 
way the Biles carried on. 

"Why, looky here, Doc," says Pap. "Once fifty year or so 
ago a man sued Cap Shankle's grandpap over a span of oxen. 
The man's name was Delmus Parkins and he had to leave 
McNairy County to keep the Shankles from nailing his hide 
to a tree. Well, not ten years back a man moved into the 
Nation here from Alabama and started him a little sawmill. 
His name was Mister Yates Perkins. Somebody tells Cap about 
it, and you know what? Cap he didn't do a form thing but 
grab up his Colt's forty-five and go down and plug Mister 
Yates Perkins toreckly through the heart. 

"Well, Mister Perkins' relations down across the Alabama 
line come up to Selmer and told the Shurff they didn't think it 
was right. And so the Shurff he come up to Snuff Dip and says, 
'I beheve you had ought to tell me why you shot Mister Yates 
Perkins, Cap.' 

"Cap says, 'You know well's I do, Shurff, about that old he- 
nobody Delmus Parkins suing Grandpap Shankle.' 

"Shurff says, 'But, Cap, this here man you shot was a Perkins. 
That man back yonder was a Parkins. They wasn't a drop of 
kin.' 

" 'Don't you reckon I know that?' says Cap. 

" 'Why then. Cap,' says the Shurff, 'wonder if you'd mind 
telling me why you shot him?' 

"Says Cap, 'Damn hit, Shurff, ain't no man going to come in 
here with a name that like the man who sued my grandpap and 
git away with hit! ' " 




Doc just set there listening to Pap Biles and not much know- 
ing what to think. 

"That ain't the half, no not even the hundredth of the way 
Cap Shankle does," Pap says. "You take about a year back. Cap 
was setting on a rock down by the Selmer Road with a bunch 
of other men watching a hoss-shoe pitching when along come 
a stranger. 

"The stranger was whistling 'Hot Pot Susy' and enjoying 
himself. He come breasting of the rock where Cap was setting 
and Cap yanked out his Colt's forty-five and shot the stranger 
through the head. 

"Preacher Avory was there and he says, 'Cap, howcome you 
killed this stranger? ' 

" 'Why hell, Preacher!' says Cap. 'You know well as I do 
that he wasn't whistling that tune right!' " 

That's the way Pap Biles went on for an hour's time. Finally 



84 Raring Around with the Boys 

Doc Myrick couldn't stand no more, so he went over on his 
side of the hound-run and fooled around awhile. But he got to 
worrying and fretting to where he felt he had to have company, 
even if it was only the Biles. 

He went back across the hound-run, but there wasn't a Biles 
nowhere. They'd teetotally left and vanished. Hadn't taken a 
thing with them. No sir Bob, they'd skun out, leaving the doors 
wide open to the night. 

Doc felt nervouser then than ever. Figgered he'd better bar 
and chain and lock the doors. He went over to his wing of the 
cabin and started for the door. 

But Doc stopped right where he was and commenced a hard 
teeth-rattling sweat. For who did step through the door but 
Cap Shankle. 

"I want to see you," says Cap. 

Well, Doc near done a bean. But he had presence of mind. 
He says, "Ain't your bootlace undid, Cap?" 

So Cap looked down and Doc breezed out the other door. His 
feet hit the ground about every three yards and he tore up the 
ridge through the hazelnut bushes like a rabbit goes through 
grass. He could hear Cap coming behind him, yelling, "Stop 
off, there. Doc! Stop, I tell you!" 

Then Cap started shooting. Every time that Colt's forty-five 
went off, it sounded like a cannon to Doc. Every time one of 
them big slugs went WHEeeeeng over Doc's head, he went a 
little faster. He couldn't see a thing in the pitch-black night, 
but he made pretty good time for a young man that's beginning 
to fatten. 

Cap kept shooting and yelling and Doc kept tearing through 
the hazelnut bushes till pretty soon the moon rose. And it didn't 
rise none too soon. 




Doc pulled up so sudden he could smell the shoe leather burn- 
ing. Yes, he pulled up right stump on the edge of Tick Bush 
Drop. Another step and he'd gone flying out into nothing and 
then dropped four hundred feet on more sharp rocks in one 
place than was anywhere else in the Nation. 

And behind him come Cap Shankle, cussing and yelling some- 
thing terrible. So Doc just give down in the knees and says to 
himself, "This is the end of my time for sure." 

Cap grabbed him by the shirt and jerked him to his feet and 
glared at him. Doc's kneebones sounded like a couple of dice. 
He wanted to yell and he couldn't even whisper. His tongue 
had swole up and choked him. He couldn't lift an arm, he 
couldn't make a move. There he stood like an upended chunk 
of wood waiting to be split by the ax. 



86 Raring Around with the Boys 

"Dod-dum you!" Cap bellers, giving him a hard shake. 
"When the he-coon tells a man to stop, he ought to stop!" 

"I— I swear I d-didn't hear you," says Doc. 

Cap says, "I shot at you, didn't I? Can't you take a hint?" 

Doc seen Cap's other hand move like a snake's tongue and 
he thinks, "He's going at his Colt's forty-five. My sweet mother 
in Glory, I'll be with you soon!" 

But Cap just jammed something in Doc's hand and says, "Hit 
were prime miseries medicine. Doc. My mammy says thank you 
and much oblige." 

Doc just had time to see Cap trotting up the ridge before he 
fainted away. 

When he come to his senses it was high morning and him lay- 
ing in the sun on the edge of Tick Bush Drop all soaked in dew. 
He couldn't rightly figger howcome till he opened his hand 
and seen the silver dollar Cap Shankle had put there. 

James R. Asivell 




Even Stephen 



THAT ERLEEN GOWEN WAS A PRETTY LITTLE 

trick. Hair all yellow and eyes of blue, and the winningest ways 
in the valley. She hadn't no more than outgrowed pigtails and 
put rats in her hair when young Woody Upchurch set his 
claiming eye on her and let the other young bucks know he 
was serious. 

Woody seen Erleen home from all the get-ups and he set in 
the parlor with her ever Sunday after dinner. Didn't keep 
company with nobody else. She didn't neither, because if any 
young buck spoke her name around Woody, he blowed on his 
knuckles and cut a mean eye. 

Soon as he could with decence. Woody says, "Sugar pie, I 
need a dough roller." 

"Honey bubbles," says Erleen, "I need a wood chopper." 

So Woody give her old man a gallon of good red whisky 
and said his piece. Before long the whole valley knowed he'd 

87 



y 



88 Raring Around with the Boys 

spoke for Erleen. He started clearing land and snaking logs 
for a nice sizable house. Erleen she begun quilting and tatting 
and getting advice from the old wed-wimmen. 

Well, there was a lasses-stirring over at Fiery Gizzard and a 
play-party afterwards. It drawed people near and far. And 
that's how come Dain Palmore, that dog with the ladies, to be 
there in the first place. He got drawed in because he fiddled a 
fiddle better than anybody anyways close by. Nor that wasn't 
all. That man could just naturally take a body to realms above 
with them ballets and fritter-minded things he sung when he 
got TO shoving^o^]M5s^rosFtEeTtrings and patting his foot 
jteady, ~° 

He loved all the girls, Dain Palmore did, but never got his 
self pinned down to no special one. He just played and sung 
for the whole passel to dance. But this night he changed com- 
plete. He just fell headlong, neck deep, and plumb absolute for 
Erleen. He looked direct at her while he sung "The Pretty 
Mohea," and any puddin-head would of knowed what he was 
about. Anybody could tell he was setting up to her. Woody 
knowed it too and his face looked like a thunder bonnet. So 
Dain he played and sung a piece about "Susie's Sunday Clothes." 
The last verse was what done the work. 

^^They ain^t no man a-living 
In the house or out of doors, 
^Cept me that's going to sowing her 
All in her Sunday Clothes.^^ 

Then he got up and danced a set with her. 
"It's a shame, little girl," says he. 

She curled her eyelashes at him and she says, "What's a 
shame?" 



Even Stephen 89 

"That you're spoke for— and by a slow pokey chaw-bacon 
like Woody Upchurch, at that." 

She did blush and drop her eyes. /'Be keerful," she says. 
"Woody'd cut a rusty was he to hear you talk like that! And 
better not scrooge me so tight, neither." 

"Little I keer," says he, "what Woody Upchurch does. I'd 
wade briars barefoot for the chance to dance a set with you. I'd 
take on the whole Upchurch tribe just to hold you tight." 

Erleen giggled and didn't say nothing more. 

Yep, that's what started it— the feud between Woody and 
Dain, Woody laid for him after the party and showed him the 
knuckles of his fist. "Watch yore step, Palmore!" he says. 

So Dain just whipped out his big springknife and started feel- 
ing its edge. "Don't worry about me, Bud!" he says. "/'// get 
by!" 

From then on the get-ups and play-parties was just like a 
three-ring circus. Anything was bound to happen and most 
generally did. 

Woody went around looking square-jawed and when Erleen 
went to a possum stew with Dain Palmore one week night, folks 
said watch out! So Woody got full of popskull one night and 
went over and how he done it all by his self nobody knows. But 
he tore down the whole groundwork and first laying of logs to 
his right sizable house he had planned on. Yep, pulled ever last 
little stob and everthing and scattered it all. 

Then he drunk another big dram and went and had a knock- 
down drag-out fight with Dain that set the community talking. 
Neither one beat because they was separated, but they was 
both as bloody as stuck pigs. 

"Next time," Woody yells at him when they was pried apart, 
"I'll end yore pleasant life!" 



90 Raring Around with the Boys 

"Haul in yore neck, Upchurch!" says Dain, "or I'll win you 
a pitchfork in the everlasting beyond!" 

So they rivaled each other that way, with Dain running more 
and more ahead because of the way he used that sweet-jaw on 
Erleen. 

But don't think Woody was laying around asleep! He done 
a right smart thing. He run for constable. Now, ever woman 
the whole stretch of anywhere just goes hog-wild and pigeon- 
crazy over a man that can hip a six shooter. Woody figgered on 
that. 

But the day of the election a real serious thing happened. 
According to the judges of the election, it was a heap of mysteri- 
ous markings on a heap of them ballots. A whole passel of them 
had to be burnt and that just defeated Woody. 

"You'll notice," says Woody, "that Dain Palmore was one 
of the election judges. You'll notice he's the one found them 
funny markings." 

And some folk said it did look right queer. 

Anyhow, the night after it was over, Dain was made a deputy 
to the High-Sheriff. So Dain could carry a bigger gun with 
more fire for it and have a bigger badge than any shirttail con- 
stable could. 

Well! That badge and big blue steel pistol turned the tide 
for good. Dain nosed Woody out plumb absolute. One night 
him and Erleen run off and got hitched. 

It might near done for Woody. For a while there he wouldn't 
eat, just holed his self up and drunk whiskey, and cussed ever- 
body out that tried to help him. Finally he come round some, 
but everbody could see it still hurt inside him. 

Way Dain done didn't help none, neither. He studied to find 
ways to keep Woody hotted up about losing that pretty little 



92 Raring Around with the Boys 

Erleen. He made it a point of a Sunday morning to take his 
seat on the WhittHng Rocks by the church and start whittling 
and bragging about married Ufe. 

"You air sure taking on some good feed, ain't you, Dain, to 
be getting as hefty as you are?" somebody'd be shore to say 
to get him started. 

"Shore thing! Erleen is the best little cook in this whole 
valley or anywheres around. And let me tell you, that girl is 
smart as all get-out! More than that, she can shore hold a dol- 
Jaf =tilLthe^gle squawks^joo." 

And he would squint out from under his eyebrows at Woody 
and Woody would squirm around and look miserable and get 
up and leave after awhile. 

Then, out at all the get-ups Erleen she was so everlasting 
mushy with Dain that Woody just about quit coming to things. 
Looked like Erleen could of saved her loving for behind closed 
doors, but she didn't. Not her! 

"Dainy, sweet, are you shore you chunked the fire in the 
hearth down enough?" she'd say, and that would just naturally 
make a body know what a cozy little place they'd left to come 
to the corn-shucking or whatever it was. 

"Dainy, darling pie, you'll carry me to the surrey, won't 
you, pet?" she'd say. "It's rained and got the weeds all wet, 
sweet. Now don't hurt your back, darling," she'd say when he 
picked her up. Yep, it was Hubby-Dubby you'll do this and 
Sweetheart and Baby please do that till all the whole valley 
knowed what all Erleen called Dain. 

The wimmenfolks said she should have waited till she got 
back home to play up to her man like that. But all the men said 
they'd give a pretty to be in Dain's shoes, or, more like it, to 
have their brogans where Dain's was of a night. "If she's that 



Even Stephen 93 

full of honey out in front of folks," they said, "what all must 
she be full of in front of nobody but theirselves?" 

Sometimes it got next to Woody so that he quit coming to 
church or the Whittling Rocks, either, and Woody was a man 
that just loved to whittle and talk. He'd just wander off in the 
woods and kick stumps. He'd go in his house and shut the doors 
and set in a corner cussing because he'd lost such a sweet loving 
little woman. 

Woody and Dain wouldn't hardly speak. You'd think Dain 
would been glad to let dead dogs lie, now he had the girl. But 
he seemed to get sourer on Woody ever year that passed. 
Taunted him all the time, told tales and blackguarded on him 
to try and get him in trouble. About once a year they'd mix 
up in a fist fight and have to be separated. 

Fact is, Dain begun acting so queer-like that folks said his 
conscience was aching him because of how he'd tricked Woody 
Upchurch out of his plighted girl. Dain taken to heavy drink 
and all sorts of wildness. He got bags under his eyes and deep 
lines in his face. He commenced taking outdacious chances in 
his deputy work— going after bad uns without no posse and 
harrying moonshiners way back in the ridges where nobody'd 
ever been sent by the High-Sheriff before. Didn't have to send 
Dain. He just went, with his blue steel pistol throwing the lead. 

So finally he up and got his self shot by some moonshiners 
he tried to take in to the county seat by his self. They done him 
up so bad that he knowed his time had come. 

Then Dain Palmore done something that taken the whole 
valley by storm. He sent Squire Lidford over to fetch Woody 
and Woody come. 

"Woody, I'm a dying man," Dain says. "I think it's my 
bounden duty to look after Erleen and the kids even after the 



94 Raring Around with the Boys 

Old Feller calls me in. I've thought and I've thought and I be- 
lieve you're the man to carry on after I'm gone. You know^ed 
Erleen before I did. She's yores by rights. I done you a foul 
trick when I taken her away from you. So here on my death- 
bed, I'm handing her back to you, Woody. Yes, I just boogered 
you out of her like I boogered you out of that election. So let's 
even Stephen, Woody. You take Erleen, Woody, and I'll die in 
peace." 

Woody was so taken aback and all that he just broken down 
and cried and shaken Dain's hand and promised he'd do it. So 
Dain he turned his face to the wall and he died. 

Now that was the beatinest thing ever happened in the Val- 
ley. Hadn't no man never asked another one to marry his widow 
and some said it was right niggerfied. But Woody went around 
as f oolhappy as a young'un with a new play-pretty. At last he 
was bound to get his true love for sure. Erleen said it suited her 
all right. 

There was them that said they wouldn't have no such second- 
hand goods, but Woody just went around with his head in the 
clouds and before Dain was good and cold he married up with 
Erleen and moved into Dain's house with her and Dain's set of 
young'uns. 

Come the first Sunday after they was wed and Woody didn't 
come to the Whittling Rocks like always. All the regular 
whittlers was there laying for him. 

"Woody must be stove up this morning or honeymooning 
one," somebody said. "Ain't never missed coming over to jaw 
on Sunday morning before." 

"Yander he comes now," said old Scudder Box, "and he 
shore pears to be hell-bent on going somewheres." 

There come Woody, with his head hung down, kicking at 



10^ 



Even Stephen 95 

the rocks in the road, slapping at the tree branches that touched 
him. He set down with no more than a howdy and started 
whittUng hke fury. 

Now old Scudder Box was so old that he could get away 
with most any kind of pestercating. So he ups and says right 
mournful-like, not looking at no one a-tall, "Hit shore is a 
sad get-together without Dain being here, ain't it?" 

Nobody said nothing. Most of the bunch was thinking the 
old cooter should ought to keep his trap shut seeing as Woody 
was setting in Dain's nest now. 

"Seems like he ought to be here whittling or playing 
mumbledy-peg." 

Still nobody said nothing. 

But old Scudder was so cranksided he wasn't going to be 
shut up by nobody's silence, so he said, "It shore would be nice 
to see him a-coming down the path here this morning, now 
wouldn't it, Woody?" 

"You're mighty gol-dum right!" says Woody. "I'd like to 
see that two-faced horn-tooting polecat walking down that 
path, myself!" 

Woody pulled up his britches leg, "Looky here! See that 
big blue bruise? Erleen done it with a sallet pan she thro wed 
at me." 

Then he pulled up his sleeve and showed a cut four inches 
long. "Erleen hit me there with a butcher knife she flung." 

And then he taken off his hat and kind of touched a lump as 
big as a goose t^g. "Skillet," he said. 

He says, "That confounded Dain never meant no ^nnends 
when he called me to his deathbed. He didn't mean that even 
Stephen truck like it sounded. Why, he died hating me, and 
after one week with that Erleen I know why." 



g6 Raring Around with the Boys 

Woody taken off his hat, throwed it on the ground, and 
jumped up and down on it. Bitter as oak- gall, he says, "If ever 
last lick that shrew-woman hit me ain't Dain Palmore reaching 
out of his grave and whacking me because I let him get her 
away from me, you just tell me what it is?" 

So Woody started jumping on his hat again. 

]ulia Willhoit 
James R. Asivell 




Time to Call 
Titus Millsaps 




TO LOOK AT HIM, YOU JUST NEVER WOULD 

have suspicioned that Titus Millsaps done that sort of thing. 

Any warm day you could pass along Front Street and there 
he'd be tilted back in his chair in front of his livery stable across 
from the wharf, a little fat man of about five foot tall and his 
little fat legs so short that with him setting his feet couldn't 
touch the ground. He was bald and shiny and he had big blue 
pop eyes and brushy gray sidebum whiskers growing almost 
down to his chin— only he didn't have much chin to speak of. He 
always dressed sporty. You know, race-hoss sort of clothes, 
checked pants and coat and a big gold watch chain across his 
middle. 

No, by his looks setting there talking to the loafers nobody 
would suspicioned Titus Millsaps was a man that dived for 
dead bodies in the river. 

Day in and day out Titus set where he could watch the river 
with a noticing eye. It was his hobby and there's no telling why 
a man takes up a hobby. Maybe Titus felt the call like a 
preacher. 

97 



98 Raring Around with the Boys 

Anyhow, he'd been hunting for drownded people for years. 
He was known far and wide for it. 

Let a man go down for the third time and everybody would 
say, "It's time to call Titus Millsaps." 

Titus would come, hell for leather, driving his high-wheeled 
sulky with his little black bag by his side and his derby hat set 
square on his head. He'd pull up with his boss raring in a cloud 
of dust. He'd throw out the hitching block, grab his bag, and 
jump out and start his fat httle legs hustling down the river 
bank to where the crowd was standing around arguing about 
where the drowned party had gone down. 

So the crowd would sort of draw back to let him through and 
he'd come hustling. Everybody knew better than say anything 
to him at first. He'd put his little black bag down and draw his 
self up as tall as he could. He'd stand there with his arms folded, 
chewing on his lip, with his big blue pop eyes looking up the 
river and down the river. He'd rub his bald shiny head and pull 
at his gray sideburn whiskers. 

Then he'd turn kind of slow and say, "Where did he go 
down?" in his high thin wheezy way of talking. "How far out 
was he?" he'd say. "Was he a big one or a little one?" 

Everybody'd start telling him all at once. They'd point every 
which way. Titus would stand there pulUng at his sideburn 
whiskers and frowning and saying, "Well, it don't matter 
nohow. It ain't where the party went under that counts but 
where he's at now." 

Most generally there'd be some old shantyboatman around 
in the crowd. Titus would spot him and hook his finger at him 
and the two of them would move off a ways from the crowd 
and talk low to each other for a while. Everybody knew better 
than to try to hear what they said. Titus was touchy. If you 



Time to Call Titus Mills aps 99 

fooled with him he'd blow up and have a fit. He'd fire back at 
you, "All right! You can call somebody else in!" When he said 
that, he was through and done. He'd go stomping away and 
nobody could beg enough to get him to come back. 

So people didn't cross him much. They were polite to him— 
the kin of the drownded because they wanted the body and the 
crowd because they wanted to watch him work. 

Well, after Titus got through talking with the shantyboat- 
man, he'd say, "I figure he's up there in that eddy," or, "Hung 
under that snag down yonder." He'd look around and see if 
any women were in the crowd. Most commonly there were and 
Titus would march over and pick up his bag. 

"Here a minute," he'd say to the men and boys while he 
opened the bag. 

They all knew what to do. They got together and they made 
a tight ring around Titus so the women couldn't see through. 
They stood like that till he was ready. 

It wasn't any time hardly before Titus was through. The 
ring would bust up and out would walk Titus in his bare feet 
and buttoning the top buttons of the red flannel underwear he 
wore to dive in. He'd stick his rubber plugs in his ears and take 
a coil of rope with a grapple hook tied to the end from his bag. 

By that time somebody would have a skiff ready. Titus 
would step in it and pull off. He never would let a soul go with 
him. Everything had to be just so. He wouldn't trust anybody 
else but his own self. 

Titus would paddle to the eddy or the snag and tie up. Then 
he'd stand up, hold his nose, and jump over. Sometimes he'd 
find the body the first whack. Other times he'd go up and down, 
up and down all day before he nosed it out. Maybe it'd take 
days. But sooner or later, Titus would haul it in. He knew 




every eddy, snag, and backwash for miles and he'd find the 
body somewhere or other. Yes, when they called in Titus 
Millsaps, the undertaker could start laying out his tools. It was 
just a matter of time. 

Summer was Titus' rush season because there's more people 
on the river then than in winter and fall. He couldn't get his 
mind on talking to the loafers in fine warm weather. He just 



Time to Call Titus Millsaps loi 

set tilted there in front of the hvery stable with his ears propped 
for the word to come. Sometimes he'd have seven or eight calls 
a summer and clear as much as a thousand dollars in rewards. 
Even when he was getting along in years and had the rheu- 
matism, he still kept at his diving for dead bodies. He was a 
little slower about it, but he always got the body. 

Now, Titus' livery stable business got to losing custom pretty 
bad when automobiles came in. Every year it lost just a little 
bit more. Titus wouldn't give it up. No, he swore the boss was 
coming back. He vowed people would soon get tired of be- 
ing plagued with automobiles. So he set out in front of his 
livery stable watching the river and cussing the garage next 
door. 

"Some of these days, and it won't be long," he'd say to the 
loafers, "I'm going to have the happiness of seeing that dad- 
burned nest of tin stinkbugs shut down. You mark my words , -^3/3 
on it!" 

Of course he owned the garage too. He'd built it and hired 
a man to run it so as not to lose out all the way, but he never 
would set foot inside it his own self. Well, the garage did fair 
business and made money. But it just about evened up what 
the livery stable lost. So it seemed like Titus was always finan- 
cially in need of money. The rewards for finding drownded 
people came in mighty handy. 

Old Man Smothers, who I guess knew Titus about as well as 
anybody in town, used to say, "You know, it sure is a queer 
thing about Titus. Say somebody whose folks have money is 
drownded and they offer a reward. Well, Titus just can't find 
that body. Then they raise the reward and still Titus can't find 
the body. Pretty soon the reward goes as high as it's likely to go. 
Then, by doggies, in comes Titus lugging the body. Now, far 



I02 Raring Around with the Boys 

be it from me to say he anchors the body out till the market 
hits the top, but . . . /" And Old Man Smothers would cock his 
head on one side and give a deep wink. 

Titus did charity work too. He used to say, "I'm here to 
serve the public, day or night, fair weather and foul. I can be 
reached by the poor and rich the same." 

He was telling the truth. He'd come just as fast for a poor 
drownded fisherman as for the richest man that ever jumped off 
the bridge. Poor people knew it and appreciated it. Why, when 
Joe Tucker fell off the wharf and was drovmded and his family 
didn't have a rusty copper to pay for it, Titus dived right in. 
It wasn't hardly any time at all before he had him out. It was 
a big comfort to poor old Mrs. Tucker and she told everybody 
so. She says, "It just goes to show you." Everybody else said 
the same. 

Only one place where Titus drew the line. He wouldn't 
dive for niggers. He said it was hard enough to see a white man 
on the bottom of that muddy river. He said it just wasn't any 
use at all to look for a nigger down there. He said, "If a nigger 
goes out in a boat or swimming in the river expecting to get 
my 5"ervices, well he might just as well get out of the river. He 
might just as well go home, thafs all." 

Well, Titus must have been crowding sixty years old when 
young Arthur Binkley, the hardware people's boy, jumped off 
the railroad bridge half a mile above the wharf. It was cold 
weather and rainy and everybody knew Titus was too old and 
stove up with rheumatism to go down in the water then. So 
nobody called him. 

But Titus saw a commotion of skiffs on the water up there 
and hopped in his sulky and came. He was hurt in his pride be- 
cause they hadn't called him, but he didn't say a thing. He 



Time to Call Titus Millsaps 103 

just got into his red flannels and paddled down to the eddy 
where he thought he'd find young Arthur. The Binkleys had 
offered a hundred dollars cash and every riverman for miles 
around was out to get it. So when they saw which way Titus 
Millsaps was going, twenty and more skiffs strung out behind 
him. 

Titus reached the eddy first and got ready to go over. He 
was standing up in his red flannels when the nearest riverman 
yelled at him. 

"You better not!" he says. "That water's like ice, old man. 
You won't find him noways." 

"Thieves, liars, and rogues!" was all that Titus said. He 
just shook his fist and went over— kerplunk!— 2ind sunk out of 
sight. 

Well, the skiffs pulled up and waited. They waited five min- 
utes. No Titus. 

They waited some more. 

No sign of Titus. 

So then the whole works and compuddlement of them 
started poking boat hooks down in the water. They kept work- 
ing till dark. It didn't do any good. They couldn't find a trace 
of Titus Millsaps nor young Arthur Binkley. 

The next day the Binkleys raised the reward to two hundred 
dollars. The livery stable and garage offered ten dollars for 
Titus. 

Four days afterwards the Binkleys offered three hundred 
and the livery stable and garage twenty. 

Every fisherman for miles turned out looking. They dragged 
the river and dived. They shot off dynamite to make the bodies 
come up, but all it did was kill some fishes. People were looking 
for twenty miles down the river or more. 



104 Raring Around ivith the Boys 

Finally the Binkleys made it four hundred and the garage 
and livery stable made it twenty-five. 

On a Saturday the loafers were setting in front of Titus' livery 
stable, talking and feeling low. They had hung up some crepe 
on the sign, but not on the garage because they figgered Titus 
wouldn't have liked that if he was alive. 

Well, along about noon a nigger let out a whoop down on 
the wharf. Everybody ran down there and looked where he was 
pointing. 

"Look at dem two things out there!" the nigger said. The 
nigger looked and everybody else looked. Then, first thing 
they knew, the nigger yelled and turned around and ran hke 
a colt. 

Well, everybody stood there bug-eyed, watching those two 
things hobbling along in the current. They came whirling into 
the eddy around the foot of the wharf. Turning around slower 
and slower, Titus and young Arthur grounded there among 
the skiffs. They were all tangled together in a rope with a 
grapple on its end. Titus' red flannels were faded some, but 
still pretty red. 

So the boys pulled them out and untangled them and car- 
ried them into the livery stable and called the undertaker. Then 
they just stood out front waiting. 

Old Man Smothers came down Front Street. He stopped and 
started in jawing before anybody could say anything to him. 

"Just been up on the Square," he says, "and heard the latest 
word. Yep, if old Titus was alive now, it'd be about time for 
him to bring the Binkley boy in, because his family just let it 
out that they don't aim to raise the reward no higher." 

Somebody poked Old Man Smothers and pointed inside. 



Time to Call Titus Mills aps 105 

He turned and looked. He grunted like he'd been kicked 
hard. Then he opened his mouth, took a deep breath, and didn't 
say nothing at all. 

The rest of the boys said the same. 

James R. Aswell 





fiddler's dram 

TALK ABOUT YOUR FIDDLERS-WHY, IN YON- 

der's times we had fiddlers around here! None of your modem- 
age make-shifters that whip all the tunes till a body can't tell 
"Rabbit in the Pea Patch" from "Bull Amongst the Yearlings." 
Nor in them days they didn't make the fiddle sound like a jug 
full of hungry mosquitoes, neither! No siree! They just made 
the sweetesLffiusic this direction from heaven.. 

And in all yonder time I verily know there never was a finer 
hand to fiddle than Pies Haslock. He fiddled for all the square 
dances and play-parties anywheres around. No gathering of 
whatever kind amounted to much unless Pies was there, with 
his long solemn face and them light blue far-shot eyes, patting 
his foot and ripping away on his fiddle and calling the figgers. 

''''Gents, hands in your pockets, back to the wall, 
Take a chaw tobaccer and balance all! 
Ladies, do-se-do with the gents you know. 
Swing your comer and-a here we gor 

io6 



Fiddlers Dram 107 

He wasn't no old billygoat fiddler with crazy ways and a 
cracked voice. He was right young and by nature handsome. 
All the girls sighed, but Pies just didn't deal in women. He 
said, "Give me my fiddle and a place to pat my foot and they's 
nothing else in creation I crave." His daddy had got an old 
fiddlebox in a bunch of junk he'd traded from an Irish Gypsy 
for a nag is how Pies got started fiddling. He made his own 
strings out of catamount guts and the bow from the tail hairs of 
mare colts. Then he teached his self to fiddle till he laid it plumb 
over any of the old heads. 

Since his daddy died, Pies lived at home by his self over near 
Post Oak, but he was a man that just didn't stay home much. 
He liked to ramble and visit around. Wheresoever he went, he 
was twice as welcome as anybody. He had word of all the 
latest things and happenings and he could keep a family spell- 
charmed to the midwarp of the night telling tales he made out 
of his head. He'd make the young'uns elder-shoot flutes and 
cornstalk fiddles, and, when asked to, he'd get out his own old 
fiddle and make it talk— I mean talk! You'd sweared to hear it 
that there was a live mockingbird singing in that fiddlebox or 
a buzzing cowfly or maybe a little peeping chicken. He could 
take and mock cats fighting or old gossip women gabbing till 
folks fell in the floor laughing. And he could fiddle the old 
tunes to where the meanest man in the county would break 
under and cry all down his face. 

Nothing was too good for Pies Haslock when he visited 
around. He was welcomed by high and low as long as he wanted 
to stay and they begged him to stop longer when he fancied to 
go. 

They had fiddling contests then, but it got so there wasn't 
a heap of contest to them. Everybody come to know that Pies 



Fiddler* s Dram 109 

Haslock was going to win hands down. He always walked off 
with the gallon jimmy John of fine oak-chartered drinking 
whiskey they give for the prize. Why, it come to the point 
where they had to give another jug for second prize or they'd 
never had nobody in the contest but Pies. The other fiddlers 
only tried to outbeat each other. None of them had any show 
at all against Pies and they purely all knowed it. 

So what happened one time but the wall of the jail at Duke- 
dom fell out and the county court didn't have no money in the 
poke to fix it. When the squires figgered to get up a fiddling 
contest to raise the money, everybody says, "We'll have to 
send over to Post Oak and tell Pies Haslock and notify him." 

Coot Kersey was the best fiddler near and around Dukedom 
and Coot says, "He may can't come this time. I hear he's a sick 
man. Down with heart dropsy is what I hear." 

"Don't you hope so, Coot? " they says, and laughed him to 
a fair deadstand. 

The County Court Clerk says, "I've got to drive my rig over 
to Post Oak on business tomorrow. I'll tell Pies and notify him." 

So the County Court Clerk dropped his hitching block in 
front of Pies Haslock's the next day and called, "Heyo! You to 
home, Pies?" 

Nobody answered him, so he walked through the weeds to 
the house, a one-room shack that looked like a good strong 
puif of air would blow it over. The clapboards was dropping 
off and the shingles curled up everywhich way l ike t hejeathers 
of an old Dominecker hen. 

When the County Court Clerk climbed the shaky steps to 
the porch, Pies woke up inside and said, "Who's there?" 

"Just me," says the County Court Clerk and give out his 
name. 



1 1 o Raring Around with the Boys 

"Well, come right in! " says Pies. "Ain't seen you since I don't 
rightly know when. How're you folks living at Dukedom?" 

"Pretty fair, Pies. Can't complain." 

The room was one big clutteration of old clothes, pots and 
pans, and junk, and Pies was setting up in a mess of dirty com- 
forts on his bed at the far end. 

Everything else might be knocking around just anywheres 
it lit, but Pies didn't care a whet so long as his fiddle was safe. 
He never let go of that fiddle— had it now beside him in bed, 
running his fingers over it like you'd pet a child. It give the 
County Court Clerk a shock to see how like death Pies looked, 
green-faced and shrunk, with big brown liver splotches on his 
face and hands. He had gone down mightily, but his eyes was 
just as blue-bright as ever. His nose looked natural. It always 
had been big and bony. 

County Court Clerk said, "How're you feeling. Pies?" 

"Well," says he, "I could say I was down in the back. I 
could say I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for them kind 
people that neighbor me round. I could say it and I do say it. 
Three times a day some good neighbor woman brings me some 
nice something to eat and sets a spell talking. The menfolks 
come over at night and see that I ain't fell out of bed to my 
harm. Between whiles, I just lay around and play my fiddle." 

"I'd beared you was ailing," says the County Court Clerk. 

"It's for a fact," says Pies. "Heart dropsy runs in the Haslock 
line. Here of late I've been having night flotations too. But 
seems like I'm coming around some. Aim to be up and on my 
feet soon." 

The County Court Clerk was of two minds whether to tell 
him about the contest but now he figgered it wouldn't do no 
harm. So he come out about the jail wall and the contest and 



Fiddler^ s Dram 1 1 1 

notified Pies that it would be held at the Dukedom school two 
weeks come a Monday. 

Minute he heard that, Pies peartened up mightily. "I'll be 
there!" he says. "When the roll is called at Dukedom, Pies 
Haslock will be there certain sure! " 

So the County Court Clerk visited awhile and then had to be 
on his way. "We'll be looking for you, Pies," he says. 

"Get your fiddler's dram ready," says Pies, "for I virtuously 
aim to win it," 

Well, the night of the contest most everybody in the county 
come to Dukedom in their Sunday best and tramped into the 
schoolhouse and settled in their seats. Everybody was in a 
looking-forward mood. You know how them gatherings are. 
A heap of shouting and high joking back and forth. Old gossip- 
trots running from one group to another with the latest. Young 
bloods standing around talking loud and the girls giggling and 
sneaking looks at them. Little mustards running up and down 
the aisles, snatching things from each other, having rooster- 
fights at the back of the hall, and raising a general rumpus. 
Little girls setting with their folks and sticking out their 
tongues at the boys when nobody was looking. Babies crying, 
people coughing, and the lye soap smell pretty strong. 

The crowd was getting restless. Little boys, and some not 
so httle, begun whistling and banging desks for things to get 
started. 

Old Judge Huley Dunlap was the chairman of the committee 
and he come out on the stage and give out that the contest was 
fixing to start. Then he put on his glasses and read oif the names 
of the fiddlers, seven in all. 

When he got through, everybody commenced yelling, "How 
about Pies Haslock?" 



1 1 2 Raring Around with the Boys 

"Well," says Judge Dunlap, "we'd hoped he could make it, 
but till yet he ain't showed up. He's been laid up in bed lately 
and I reckon he couldn't stand the trip over here from Post 
Oak. Anybody that wants to can get their admission back at 
the door." 

Some folks grumbled but everybody stayed set and things 
quieted down. 

So the seven fiddlers come out on the stage and taken seats 
and the contest was ready to break out. 

Everybody knowed that five of the seven fiddlers might as 
well not have got in the contest. They was plain everyday set- 
in-a-rocker-and-scratch-aways. The contest was between Coot 
Kersey and Old Rob Reddin, number six and seven. With Pies 
Haslock down and out. Coot and Old Rob was the best fiddlers 
you could find anywhere around and about in the county. 
Everybody figgered Old Rob was the likely one, not because 
his fiddling was fancier than Coot's but because of the crazy 
way he carried on. 

The five sorry fiddlers sawed away and got through without 
nobody paying attention in special. Coot and Old Rob would 
do the real fiddling and they come last. 

There was a big laugh when Coot's turn come. Everybody 
always felt like laughing when they saw Coot. The way his 
head bobbed up and down on his long red wrinkled neck with 
every step he took, the way his chin ran back and his nose 
beaked out, and the way a long tag of his hair kept wattling 
down to the bridge of his nose put everybody in mind of an 
old turkey gobbler. Coot gobbled when he talked, too. 

But one thing sure— Coot could make a fiddle sing. He was 
the dead serious kind of fiddler. Had to have his fiddle set just 
right across his knees before he'd commence, but let him get 



Fiddlefs Dram 1 1 3 

started and he sure fiddled. His piece was "Leather Britches." 
He went at it like a boy killing snakes, whipping and scraping 
away and stamping his foot till he'd worked up a pouring sweat. 
When he'd finished, he was as limp as an old rag. He drawed 
down a powerful claphand from the listeners. 

The gathering set up smart when it come Old Rob Reddin's 
turn and he hobbled to the front of the stage. Folks started 
grinning before he'd done a thing. Old Rob was as funny to 
look at as Coot Kersey, but not because he put you in mind of 
no bird or animal. He was a lard-fat Httle man and when he 
walked his stomach wobbled in front of him. He'd never been 
heard to open his mouth without some real funny humor-saying 
rolling out. If ever by accident he was to have a mournful spell 
and say anything serious, people would've laughed at him just 
the same. Seeing Old Rob meant laughing like falling in the 
creek meant getting wet. 

So Old Rob he plumped his self down in the fiddler's chair. 
He laid his fiddle on his lap and winked at his wife that was 
setting down front. All on a sudden he yelled, "Hold to your 
seats, folks! I'm driving wild!" 

He give the gathering time to stop howling. Then he lit in 
fiddling "Hell Turned Loose in Georgia." The way he car- 
ried on, a body'd thought he was having some sort of fit if they 
hadn't knowed better. When he drawed a high note he'd open 
his mouth wide, run his eyebrows to his hairline, and shoot 
his neck up. On low ones he'd bend almost to the floor. Every 
once in so often he'd throw his bow into the air. While it was 
coming down he'd bawl out things like ^^Eating hogeye!" and 
"I love chittlins!" and "Ladies, where ivas your man last Satur- 
day night!" 

Everybody was still shouting and stamping and whistling 



114 Raring Around with the Boys 

when Old Rob come down off the platform. No need to hold 
the jimmy John over the different fiddlers' heads to see who'd 
get the most applauding. A deaf and dumb blind man could 
easy see Old Rob had that contest. 

Like everybody, the judges was so taken up 'with watching 
Old Rob cut capers because he'd won that they didn't see Pies 
Haslock till he'd already started playing. The first anybody 
knowed he was anywheres about was when a fiddle begun on 
the stage. 

The crowd looked to see who it was, and there sat Pies in 
the chair with his fiddle across his knees, his bow weaving over 
the strings, and his foot patting steady. Yes, there he set with 
his eyes shut and his head nodding in time with his foot. 

It was a dumbfounder, all right. For just a minute the gath- 
ering thought maybe they was seeing things. But there he was, 
Pies Haslock, all drawed and pale from sickness, fiddling in the 
contest just a snatch before it was too late. 

The minute folks seen it luas Pies, the hall got still as time 
in a grave. 

It was about nine o'clock when Pies started in and he fiddled 
over an hour. It was straight honest fiddling— none of your 
stunts on the strings Hke Coot Kersey, none of that loud fool- 
blabber that was Old Rob Reddin's stock in trade. 

Folks there hadji^axd fiddki^thatxfiuld^ma^^ them laugh 
and^fid dlers that c ould mak e them cry, but Pies this night 
didn't do ndther one.J\^en you listened to him you nearly 
forgot who you^was. You just set limp in your seat while your 
mind tried to remember something cloudy and away far off, 
something you'd never really seen or done. 

Pies played "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and "The Two 
Sisters" and "The Elfin Knight" and a dozen or more. 



Fiddler's Dram 1 1 5 

When Pies Haslock did stop, it verily did look like the crowd 
was going to tear the whole place down and scatter the pieces. 
They heaved to their feet and whooped, whistled, screamed, 
and bellered and hammered on the desks. Kept it up while 
Judge Huley Dunlap handed Pies the jimmyjohn of fine red 
drinking whiskey and said, "I hereby present and award to 
Pies Haslock this prize which may he enjoy it as much as the 
good people of Dukedom done his fiddling." Leastways they 
seen Judge Dunlap's mouth flapping and knowed he was say- 
ing something like that. 

Well, Pies stood up, holding his fiddle and his bow under his 
left arm and heisting the jimmyjohn with a crooked finger of 
his right hand. He flipped that jimmyjohn over his shoulder, 
jerked the corncob out of the mouth of it with his teeth, and 
taken a long pull, his fiddler's dram. 

Right then come a crash. For the chair, the jimmyjohn and 
Pies and his fiddle all landed in a heap on the floor. 

Man, woman, and child run up onto the stage. But Judge 
Huley Dunlap made them stand back. "Get a doctor! " he says. 
"This man is done for, or near it. I can't feel no heart-beat at 
aU." 

So they hushed down and stood looking at Pies where he laid 
there on the stage. 

"Think of it!" they says. "Poor Pies coming thirty miles to 
Dukedom with the last life in him just to win this contest! " 

"He sure was a man that liked to fiddle!" 

"Would you look at his clothes," says somebody. "All cov- 
ered with clay, they are. From the looks of it, he must walked 
all the way and through the swamp at that." 

They kept saying, "It's the beat of all ever happened in 
Dukedom!" 



1 1 6 Raring Around with the Boys 

Before long the doctor come hustling in and knelt down and 
examined over Pies. He said, "How'd he get in here?" 

So they told him. Judge Dunlap says, "He just keeled over 
dead before our eyes, poor man." 

"Keeled over my granny! " says the doctor. "This here man 
has been dead for forty-eight hours at the very least. And from 
the clayTie's got on his clothes, Fd say buried, too." 

James R. Aswell 





Pretty Baby 






LET A BUNCH BE SETTING AROUND TELLING 

hunting tales and he could always tell one better. Like the time 
Alec Barrs told about his dog jumping a big rabbit up on the 
ridge, the biggest rabbit he'd ever seen— but it got away. 

" 'Tain't nothing to the size of what Pretty Baby can do," 
Windy Peevyhouse said as usual. "Why, no more than last 
week that dog jumped a rabbit over close to Littleton Lake, 
and Pretty Baby must of knowed I was a far piece away for 
he just treed that cottontail up a tree and stood there a-baying 
and a-wagging his tail to let me know what he'd done." 

Him telling outlandish things Hke that for the truth was what 
got him the name Windy. He was always blowing off at the 
mouth and making his self the laughingstock of Littleton's Cross 
Roads and further away than that. But people sniggering at him 
didn't stop him none. Seemed to make him worse. 

Old Man Abb Littleton would speak up sometime like the 
time he said to Windy about trapping, "There's them as says 
yore ketch-dog trees them varments in a trap you've set, 
Windy." And Old Man Littleton laughed fit to kill. 

Abb could say most anything he wanted to just anybody. 

117 



1 1 8 Raring Around with the Boys 

He owned most of the land holdings thereabouts and the store 
too. So nearly everbody generally owed him for something 
and had to be beholden to him. 

But Abb nor nothing couldn't stop Windy from breezing off 
about his dog, Pretty Baby. Claimed he was the best retriever 
that ever brung in a piece of game. Of course Windy always 
done too much talking for his own good too. Like when he 
told about Pretty Baby retrieving the duck on Littleton's Lake. 
Now Abb Littleton was fonder of that lake and the ducks and 
the fishes he'd stocked it with than all his other holdings. He 
didn't Hke no meddling in his lake nor anywheres about. 

"You shoot a duck over my lake again," he told Windy, "and 
I'll law you to the last frazzling law court in the land. I'll do it 
if you fish a fish out of there, either," Abb says good and loud. 
"That goes for the rest of you-ens, too. And the first time I 
ketch that ketch-dog around my lake I aim to— well, that ketch- 
dog will ketch his self some cold death, that's all." 

Now Windy didn't know nothing more about fishing than a 
frog knows about bed sheets, and if he'd thought of fishing in 
the lake before then, didn't nobody know about it. But right 
soon after Abb Littleton dared him to fish in the lake, Windy 
was seen to be a-digging red worms. Folks knowed he was go- 
ing fishing and they thought they knowed where. 

"Ain't you ketching any. Windy .^" Old Man Sam Burley 
asked him once. 

"Won't bite them red worms, Sam," says Windy. "Old Man 
Littleton shore as anything feeds them fish of his something." 

"Can't you ketch none a-tall?" said Old Sam. 

Windy says, "Oh, just some Uttle minners about fitten for a 
cat. I am shore fish hongry too! Ain't you, Sam?" 

"You bet I am," says Sam. 



Pretty Baby 1 1 9 

"What's the best way you know to fish, Sam?" Windy asks. 

"Dynamite." 

"Dynamite!" says Windy. "And have Old Abb Littleton 
shooting our britches off? You shore are up the wrong tree 
this time, Sam. He'd hear the rumpus of the dynamite and 
how would we git any fish and him coming to his lake like a 
shot?" 

Sam thought and then he says, "I allow we might do it on 
a day the same time of a thunder storm. Of a nighttime would 
be better to do dynamiting. I figger it wouldn't come as near 
being heard by so many. Wish that lake was four miles away in- 
stead of just one." 

That's how Windy and Sam skummed up that scheme. But 
they had to wait. Seemed like there was more fair weather for 
a spell than anybody ever remembered of for a long time. 

So Windy kept on bragging about what a fine retrieving dog 
old Pretty Baby was. He showed everbody around Old Abb 
Littleton's store, just with sticks and things, how Pretty Baby 
never got too wore out to bring back whatever it was he 
throwed away. His tales got bigger about the game meat he 
killed and Pretty Baby dragged in to him. The game got bigger 
with every kill too. So folks just got so they didn't take no pains 
to listen special to what Windy said. They knowed he snuck 
off most days in the late after-dinner part of the day with his 
gun and dog and always brought in game meat. But nobody 
never heard a shot, nor he didn't ever buy no gun cartridges 
from Abb Littleton's store, which was right queer, it being the 
nearest for ten miles away. 

Well, a cloudy day finally come along. Windy and Sam was 
out around eyeing the sky and whittling around like they didn't 
have a care in the world, which they didn't much. 



120 Raring Around with the Boys 

"How many fish you figger we'll git, Windy?" says Sam. 

Windy says, "I reckon on a big wagon load. Ought to seine 
that many." 

"Them people over at the county seat," says Sam, "ought 
to pay a good price too. Them having so much money and all. 
Don't you think so?" 

"Yeah," says Windy. "Well, we'll go over, come the first 
good start of rain, and even if it don't thunder none, maybe 
Old Abb Littleton will think it's thunder. That's all we aim to 
fool." 

So about dark, here they went, Sam and Windy, hotfooting 
it over to the lake, only they never went in that direction. 
They went over towards the Barfieldses' place like they was 
just rambling around, and Pretty Baby tagging along under 
Windy's heels as usual. They circled around till they come to 
the lake. About that time the fireworks started in the clouds. 

Windy says, "Just like as if we'd planned it to the minute, 
Sam." 

"Yeah," says Sam, "the Lord's on our side even if Old Abb 
Littleton ain't. I bet he'll just swell up and bust when he finds 
out about his fish being killed and sold." 

"After all this planning I sort of hate to do it to him in a 
way, Sam," says Windy. 

Sam give a big hoot. "Not me, not to Abb Littleton! He owns 
more than the law ought to allow anyway. Besides, he dared 
us. Can't nobody git away with that, can they, Windy?" 

"No," says Windy, "nobody can't. He brought it stump 
down on his self." 

Well they got out that dynamite stick and fixed it all up 
with a fuse like they wanted it and flung it over in the lake. 

Then their eyes popped out of their heads. 




Pretty Baby, that lop-eared long-legged retrieving fool of 
a dog, dove off into the lake and started swimming straight as 
a good old dog can swim right towards the place where the 
dynamite had struck on the water. 

"My Lord!" yells Windy. "If that don't beat a pig a-peck- 
ing! Run for yore life. That fool ketch-dog aims to bring back 
that dynamite!" 

"It will blow us both clear to the pearly gates too! " says Sam. 

Well, them men got away from that lake a heap faster than 



122 Raring Around with the Boys 

they ever left any place before, and Sam shied of Windy like 
he had a case of lepersy. 

"That dog ain't going to be looking for me," thinks Sam, 
"because I ain't never taught him to bring me no sticks. I shore 
don't want this one he's a-bringing! " 

Pore old Windy like to of run his self to death in that minute 
or two. Pretty Baby was a-doing his best to catch up with 
Windy. 

Then a sad thing happened. That dynamite done what it 
was supposed to do. But not in the lake. And the last Windy 
saw of his retrieving dog was his hind legs waving farewell. 

Well, the next morning Old Abb's store opened up uncom- 
monly soon. And, naturally. Windy wanted to be there and 
about to see if anybody had learned anything of what hap- 
pened. 

So he went creeping in the store sort of hacked-like. And, as 
common, the whole frazzling bunch of the usual lie-swappers 
was gathered up. 

"Where's yore dog, Windy? " Old Man Littleton says, puffing 
on his corncob pipe like as if he was awful wise about some- 
thing. 

"Pore old faithful Pretty Baby," says Windy. "He was 
retrieving in a cub of a painter last night and the mama painter 
come along and got mad and et him up. There ain't even a 
piece left of him to bury. Pore old faithful dog!" moaned 
Windy, and everbody knowing they wasn't no painters left 
around in these parts. 

"That's shore bad about yore dog. Windy," says Abb. "I 
know you must be some put out and sad about him." 

Old Abb piddled around behind the counter and then come 
out to where Windy set. 



Pretty Baby 123 

"Because I know you feel so bad," he says, "I aim to give 
you this mess of catfish I fished out of the lake last night. It will 
make you feel some better. And I want you to know I think 
a heap of any dog that can put up such a fight with a she-painter 
and make her roar like that one did last night." 

Still a-piddling around not looking at nobody as he talked, 
Old Abb was. 

"It would of made a body think they was dynamite about 
somewheres," he says. "But, of course, they wasn't because 
ain't been none sold— except one stick of Sam Burley more 
than eight weeks ago. That was to blow up a stump, wasn't it, 
Sam?" 

Well all the time Windy was squirming around and finally 
he couldn't stand it no longer. 

"Abb," he says, "seeing as you given me these fishes, I can't 
bear to He to you. That's just the way it was. I mean Pretty 
Baby was blowed up with dynamite just like you done rea- 
soned out someways. I was a-lying all the time, but I never 
wanted you fellers to know that I same as kilt my own ketch- 
dog— me a-teaching him all them retrieving tricks. Why, Pretty 
Baby thought it was just another stick to play a game with, that 
dynamite. Pore old Pretty Baby." 

Windy heaved a sigh and says, "And this morning it was 
shore lonesome a-gitting up with Pretty Baby not here around 
a-licking me in the face to unwaken me. But before I got my 
pants on, I heard a lumbering falling racket in the top of the old 
horseapple tree next on to the cowshed and when I looked out 
the door, there was old Pretty Baby out there with the prettiest 
little old pink-faced angel you ever seen or heard tell of in his 
jaws. He'd retrieved it in just like always when he ketches meat 
for me." 



124 Raring Around with the Boys 

"A angel! " the whole bunch of them lie-swappers bellered 
out. 

"Where is it now?" Old Abb says, all the time gitting up off 
the nail keg he was setting on like as if he aimed to go see for 
his self. 

"Well sir," says Windy, "that angel and Pretty Baby just 
played around the back lot and around like as if Pretty Baby 
was a-showing that little bitty thing all the chickens. And the 
old cow just mooed like she thought it was the doggonedest 
thing she ever seen and I reckon it was. Then, I swan if that 
angel didn't git Pretty Baby up on its back and the last I seen 
they was flying off the prettiest you ever seen. I reckon he must 
of taken a fancy to that ketch-dog of mine and was a-toting him 
back to wherever Pretty Baby had got him." 




Pretty Baby 125 

"A angel!" snorted Old Abb. "Aw git out, Windy!" 
"A angel it was for fair! " says Windy. "All them that dis- 
believe can come up to the house and see the feathers that come 
out of them pretty little wings when it come through the limbs 
with my ketch-dog. Of course, some might say they was goose 
feathers. But they ain't. They's a angel's feathers for shore." 

So after that folks just decided nothing wouldn't hack Windy 
for long. 

Julia Willhoit 




Mammy Wise 



FOR A CERTAIN, MAMMY WISE WAS THE MOST 
seein^st woman in the Valley or that ever lived. 

She was a big woman, a tall woman, and had white hair as 
coarse as so much rope. She had black beady eyes and looked 
dark as an Injun. Nobody didn't know how old she was, be- 
cause she was already Hving when everybody in the Valley 
was homed and she couldn't tell nobody her age because she 
didn't know it her own self. 

Folks come for miles around for her to blow in the mouths 
of their young'uns to cure the rash. Mammy claimed she was 
homed after her pappy died was the reason she could do that. 
Nor curing rash wasn't all she could do. Folks come from clear 
over in the next county to git Mammy Wise to sooth up some- 
thing that was troubling them. And she always spelled up the 
truth too. Like the time before the Civil War when she went 

X26 



Mammy Wise 127 

into a fit and spelled up the whole dang war. Said she seen a star 
from the north sky travel clean acrost the heavens and run 
smack dab into a star in the south end of the sky. 

"They is shore trouble a-brewing betwixt the North end of 
America and the South end of America," she said. "I done 
spelled it up and what I spell up always happens for a fact." 

And that war did come for a fact, just like old Mammy Wise 
said. 

People got to pestering her so about going into a trance to 
spell up something that was bothering them that Mammy got 
to charging. Not money, because folks in the Valley most 
never had none, but they f otched over maybe a gallon of lasses 
or a peck of taters or a turn of meal, and Mammy's cupboard 
was always fat with vittles on account of it. 

Mammy always meant good when she spelled up things, but 
even the truth will hurt somebody sometimes. Like when Hog 
Bittle come from acrost the Valley a far piece to see Mammy 
and says, "I shore been hard hit. Mammy. I need yore seeing 
help the worst kind." 

"Signs is right for soothing," says Mammy. "What lays on 
yore brain. Hog?" 

"Well," says Hog, "I had nigh onto forty dollars of money 
tied up in a yam sock and it sticking in under the old shuck 
bed me and Ida sleeps on. Now it's gone. See if you can spell 
up where it went to. I know I ain't spent it." 

Well, old Mammy's eyes begun to git set in her head like as 
if she was dead and ripe to bury. Then her hands begun to 
shake and pretty soon, when she quit shaking and was almost 
as stiff as a corpse, she begun to mutter something nobody but 
a soothsayer knowed what it was. 

Then she speaks out loud, "I see a woman with yeller hair 



128 Raring Around ivith the Boys 

a-going to a shuck bed. She gits the money, but it ain't forty 
dollars. No it ain't but twenty-five there in the first place. 
It's a dark night. This yeller-hair woman puts the money in 
her bosom, sock and all. She slips down to the bam and gives 
it to a raggedy young feller with yeller hair, and he shore 
is lean looking too. And that's just where yore money went to 
for a certain." 

Then Mammy shaked herself just like a dog a-shaking water 
and her eyes come back to their natural place. She says, "Did 
I help you out any. Hog?" 

"Help me!" says Hog. "You shore did! I aim to go home 
and whup that woman of mine. I doggies, I'll frail her with a 
limb for handing out my money to that yeller-headed hossthief 
of a fugitive from justice of a son of hers!" And Hog he went 
off a-spitting fire. 

Wasn't nothing Mammy could say that would tame him 
down neither, and the very next day when Old Lady Allen 
went santering over to the Bittles' to borry some lard or 
whatever, she found that Ida was some stove up. 

So after that old Mammy tried to be keerful what all she 
spelled up. "It's like as if I'd done the flogging myself," says 
she. "But what I see— I see!" 

And folks noticed she did sort of ease up on things after 
that. She started spelling up mostly good things and trying to 
help them that was troubled in mind. 

Like when Miss Ruthie Bottoms went over calling on 
Mammy. Miss Ruthie was one of the o ld-maidest old maids 
ever was.^ Mammiy^en her ambling towards her shanty in 
the cove and knowed she was in for a evening of listening 
to griping and complaining. 

"I aim and intend," says Mammy, "to put a little hope in 



Mammy Wise 129 

that old maid's heart. No harm in that, surely now. Just pre- 
tending so as she'll sort of have something to live for." 

Well, Miss Ruthie Bottoms come a-walking in the house as 
stiff like as if ever joint in her body was about to crack in 
two, which was the way she always walked. 

Mammy Wise says, "What's on yore brain today, Ruthie?" 

Ruthie says, "Just worry and lonesomeness is all. I know 
I'm the lonesomest person ever lived. All the other gals got 
men but me. Not a mortal soul to be my company since Ma 
and Pa died off. Guess it's the Lord's will for me to live and 
die alone." 

"Now, Ruthie," says Mammy, "who's the best soothsayer 
in this Valley? Who, I ask you, who?" 

"Why you are. Mammy, for a certain," says Ruthie. 

Mammy she then says, "Set right where you are and I'll see 
what I can spell up." So Mammy Wise went through all her 
doings of blinking her eyes and them setting in her head and 
her a-shaking all over. 

Miss Ruthie was just aching for her to start telling her about 
a man, and she done it, Mammy did. She says, "Go alone of 
a dark night when they ain't no moon to Lovers' Leap where 
the Injun lovers jumped off once, and set there until a man 
comes along. He's yore man for shore." 

Then Mammy blinked her eyes and unstiffened herself. Her 
fit was over and wasn't no use in gitting her to trance on that 
matter no more. When she was done, she was done. 

"Mammy," says Miss Ruthie, "I'm afeard to go to Lovers' 
Leap of a dark night by myself." 

"You want you a man, don't you, Ruthie?" says Mammy. 

"I mighty well do, Mammy," says Miss Ruthie. 

"Well, go after him then," says Mammy. "Just take him 



130 Raring Around with the Boys 

unawares. After all, the other wimmen just surprise the men 
into marrying up with them. Many's a man unwakened to find 
his self wedded. It's the same thing." 

So Miss Ruthie went away right peart. She didn't mosey 
along like always. And she got a almanac from 'the store man 
to see when the first dark unmoonless night was due. 

Now, truth to tell, Mammy thought Miss Ruthie would just 
sort of wish she had the nerve to go to Lovers' Leap of a dark 
night. Miss Ruthie never had the nerve to do nothing of a 
dark night, much less go out on the wild mountainside. Mammy 
figgered it would keep her hopes going and do no harm. 

But come the plumb pitch-dark night and Mammy Wise was 
wrong for once and not much wrong neither as you will see. 
Miss Ruthie put on her prettiest bonnet and did for shore start 
to Lovers' Leap. She was so scared she'd run awhile and then 
stop and listen if anybody was about or any varmint. When 
she got near to the rock that stuck away out over the Valley 
and that folks called Lovers' Leap, she runned faster than 
ever before. And then Miss Ruthie seen a shadder on the rock 
which hadn't ought to be there. It was a man-shape shadder 
and pretty soon hit lit up a pipe and Miss Ruthie knowed it 
was a flesh and blood living man. 

Now, it happened that when this here dark unmoonless 
night settled down. Mammy Wise got uneasy. "Reckon that 
feather-headed Ruthie would go out yan to Lovers' Leap?" 
she says to herself. And finally she knowed she wouldn't have 
no peace about it. So Mammy just put on her shawl and 
hurried over to Miss Ruthie's, Sure enough Miss Ruthie was 
gone. 

"If that don't just beat the old hen a-loping! " says Mammy. 
So Mammy Wise cut through the backtracks and cross-timbers 



132 Raring Around with the Boys 

to Lovers' Leap to bring Miss Ruthie back before the night 
air give her her death. 

And just as the old lady got near to Lovers' Leap, she beared 
Miss Ruthie scream and a man beller and a mule he-honker. 
And then there was the sound of hoof -tracks a-flying down 
the mountainside. 

Mammy was too dumbfoundered to holler out anything to 
stop Miss Ruthie from being kidnapped. She was the most took 
back she had ever been in her whole life and tried to follow 
which way Miss Ruthie and that man went but they was too 
fast for her and got clean out of hearing. 

She went back to the Valley settlement right fast for an 
old woman that didn't even know how old she was and 
pounded on ever door anywheres until she roused up the 
biggest posse that ever ganged up to git man or beast. 

"Can't you tell us nothing more than that, Mammy?" the 
men says. "Howcome her to go over there noways? Sounds 
like some of yore funny work, Mammy." 

The looks they give her was enough to kill her dead. Mammy 
was scared to tell the folks she had been just making like she 
had spelled up a man for Miss Ruthie. She knowed they 
might flog her like they done, to witches years ago, specially 
if Miss Ruthie was any harmed. She said she didn't know a 
thing. But she rid out with the posse. 

Well, that posse combed them mountains from the far side 
to the back side. And no Miss Ruthie. 

"Pore Miss Ruthie," Mammy said. "She always wanted a 
passel of men chasing after her and she's shore got them doing 
it now. But, pore thing, she can't enjoy it. Most likely she's 
dead and throwed in some lonesome hole by now." 

Mammy and the posse tracked mule tracks here and yon 



134 Raring Around with the Boys 

and still never found no tall lanky lean pore skinny figger of 
pore Miss Ruthie stretched out somewheres with her brains 
battered out with a rock like they was looking for. 

Mammy was feeling sorrier and sorrier that she had tried 
to help up Miss Ruthie's heart. 

Well, the posse and Mammy they hunted the rest of the 
night and till near midday the next day and then frazzled out 
and decided to go back in towards the Valley and git a bite 
to eat. 

"Maybe she's broke loose from that thieving woman- 
grabber," they said, "and got home herself footback." But 
wasn't much hope and it was shore a sorrowful bunch that 
rid back up to Miss Ruthie's cabin. 

"Smoke's coming out of the chimney like it was last 
night, like as if the fire is a-waiting for her," Mammy says sort 
of absent-minded to herself. 

So some of the posse heard her. "Like last night, Mammy?" 
they says. "Was you over to her house last night?" And 
Mammy just decided to tell it all. 

"Let's go inside and set a spell," she says. "I'm about winded 
now, and hungry, too. Then I got something to say, folks. A 
sorry mess I've made of things. A mighty sorry mess." 

Then Mammy opened the door to Miss Ruthie's cabin and 
let out a screech like a painter and looked like as if she'd 
seen a ghost. For there set Miss Ruthie on the sparking chair 
she'd owned all them years without nobody to spark with. 

Leastways a man set on the sparking chair and Miss Ruthie 
in his lap. 

"Land a-living!" says Mammy. "If you knowed how we 
been scouring the woods for yore dead body and you here 
a-carrying on with a man like this! It's a double twisted 



Mammy Wise 135 

shame, that's all!" And Mammy would've said some more but 
Miss Ruthie aimed to have her say. 

Just sassy as can be, she says, "You can call me Miz Ab 
Lingle, Mammy. I've a right good right to set on this here 
man's lap. Him and me got wedded over at the county seat 
just like you said. Mammy. You shore spelled up a man for 
me, for a certain! We rid all night and all morning to git 
back here and we aim to have a house-warming tonight for 
shore." 

"Well!" says Mammy. "Well! Make us acquainted with 
your man, Miz Ab Lingle." 

"Wouldn't do no good," says Ruthie. "He's deef and a 
mite nearsighted and he's still a little drunk. But that's his 
name, all right, because he had a letter in his pockets. He 
sobered up a little after we got hitched and said he losted his 
way is why he was at Lovers' Leap. Course, he don't know 
it was really you. Mammy, that spelled him to be there." 

So Mammy Wise just drawed herself up proud-like and 
says, "I might've knowed it! Might've knowed this power 
of mine was too strong to be trifled with. It just taken the 
bit between its teeth and spelled up that man anyhow! " 

Everybody in the whole Valley said it was a mighty power. 
It just had to be, they said, to sooth up a man that would marry 
Miss Ruthie Bottoms, drunk or sober. 

And nobody couldn't deny Mammy Wise had done it. 

Julia Willhoit 




The Hag of Red River 

IT WAS AWAY BACK IN THE FIRST YEARS OF THE 
eighteen hundreds that Old John Bell and his family came 
from North Carolina to the Red River Country of Middle 
Tennessee. They made a regular caravan, a dozen big wagons 
loaded down with household things, children, and slaves, all 
pulling along the dusty weedy excuse for a pike-road that went 
north from Nashville towards the Kentucky Une. 

The country was still pretty wild. Hills thick with tremen- 
dous big oak trees and beeches and hickory and the Red River 
Bottoms with sycamore and sweet gum and water maple. 
Panther and black bear in the bottoms then. Catamount and 
deer and wild pigeons till you could kill them by the cart- 
load. 

John Bell had been pretty well off in North Carolina and 
he aimed to be a big Somebody in the Red River settlement. 
He had land grants for a thousand acres along the river, a 
mile or two from where you'll find the town of Adams these 

136 



The Hag of Red River 137 

days, and he brought enough hard money to buy up more 
land around the place. 

As soon as they reached their claims, the Bells and their 
slaves and the children got busy. They cleared away the trees 
and brush. They put up the finest house in the country, as 
strong as a fort with its squared cedar and black locust logs. 
A little way off they built a one-room schoolhouse for the 
children. Lucy Bell had given Old John nine boys. They 
went by the name of Jesse, John, Drewry, Benjamin, Zadoc, 
Richard, Williams, Joel, and Egbert. There were a couple of 
girls, too, named Esther and Betsy. 

The Bells were industrious and mighty pious folks. They 
were right up front at every brush-arbor revival meeting that 
came along. John Bell was a power in the Baptist Church and 
he had a heavy hand against sin. A regular Old Testament 
Christian. Every day of the world Old John and his family 
said kneeling prayers three times— before breakfast and at 
dinner and supper. The children learned the Gospels by heart. 

Well, it wasn't very long till Old John was just about the 
leader in everything around the Red River Country. He 
took his horse pistols and rode at the head of the posse when- 
ever there was a horse-stealing, and horse-stealing was a 
plague just then. He put on his long blue split-bottom coat 
with the silver buttons and his beaver hat and his linen stock 
and made speeches at election time. And he made money 
hand over fist. Before long there wasn't a soul in the section 
could match him for wealth. He bought more and more land 
as fast as he could. 

But Old John could make a mistake. He made one, a big 
one, when he closed a deal for some land with an old widow 
by the name of Kate Batts. Thereabouts they all said she 



138 Raring Around with the Boys 

was a witch. Old John didn't take any stock in witches. When 
he saw a piece of good bottom land he wanted, he went after 
that bottom land. He went after it, mattered not if the Devil 
himself owned it. He jewed with this Batts woman and got the 
price he wanted and closed the deal. 

Sometime later the old woman got to figuring and made 
up her mind that she'd come out at the little end of the horn. 
So she began fretting and stewing till it worked on her mind. 
Pretty soon she couldn't think about another thing. She 
started running around telling folks, "That Jack Bell cheated 
me in this business. He cheated me scandalous— me a poor 
widow with no husband or kin to take her part. But you just 
wait," she'd say, "and mark my words. I'll get even with him 
somehow. I'll get even if I have to come back from my silent 
grave to do it!" 

Old John Bell never paid her the slightest mind. "Let them 
that make bargains stick to them," he said. 

Finally Old Kate Batts died and was buried. 

Soon after John Bell had the log schoolhouse built on his 
farm, along came a young man riding by the name of Richard 
Powell, and he was a schoolteacher. He was a likely looking 
young fellow and he answered Old John Bell's questions to his 
satisfaction. He was pious enough and letter-perfect in cipher- 
ing and fine handwriting. So John Bell took him on as school- 
master. Told him he could live with the family. The neighbor 
people looked him over and decided he would do. They sent 
their children to him along with the Bell children and they 
paid him a Uttle something for the work. Wasn't very long 
before Richard Powell was just the same as a member of the 
family. All the Bells liked him first rate. Mrs. Bell and the 
youngest girl, Betsy, were fond of him in particular. 



The Hag of Red River 139 

Right after the schoolmaster got settled, all sorts of strange 
happenings began at the Bells'. They commenced hearing 
things. At first, just soft tappings in the walls like death-watch 
beetles make. Then little scratchings and whisperings you 
couldn't put a name to. Nobody gave much mind to it at 
first. But day by day and week after week the noises grew 
louder. They spread out over the house till the Bells had to 
allow something mighty queer was going on. At first they 
kept quiet about it. They were afraid the neighbors would 
laugh at them and say they'd gone crazy, the lot of them. 

This went on for months. One summer evening Betsy and 
two or three friends went flower-gathering in the woods near 
the river. They didn't stay long. They came tearing back, 
all out of breath and scared near to fits. They told the beat- 
ingest story, vowed they'd seen a little green woman swinging 
by her hands from the Hmb of a locust tree. She'd bounced 
up and down, they said, and turned her face inside out at 
them. Her tongue hung out a yard and was black as a calf's 
tongue and she'd squeaked at them like a mouse and spit at 
them like a bobcat. 

That selfsame night the noises at the Bell house took a new 
turn. At first it was thin like a boy learning to whistle through 
his teeth. In a day or so it sounded like a kitten mewing, and 
then like a soft whispering. All at once one night a sharp 
voice, a woman's voice that sounded like scratching a nail on 
glass, broke out of thin air and began reeling off passages of 
Scripture. One of the Bells asked the voice what it was. 

Pretty saucy, it came back, "I'm anything and everything, 
here and there and everywhere!" It whistled a tune for a 
while. Then it said, "I'm Old Kate Batts's witch, that's what 
I am." 



140 Raring Around with the Boys 

Weil, Old John Bell made his family and the slaves swear 
they'd keep quiet about the witch. He was bound he wouldn't 
let outsiders know about the family trouble. But you know 
how children and Negroes are. In just about a week the story 
was clickitty-clacking from every tongue in the Red River 
Country. 

Of course, the Bells couldn't bold-out deny it. People that 
came visiting in the Bell home began hearing Old Kate's voice 
cut into a conversation. She'd scream at Old John Bell and 
call him names that'd turn a raftsman's stomach. Some said 
they heard crazy guffaws coming from all over the house at 
once. Others heard her singing hymns. You know, a thing 
like that is hard to pass over. And first thing the Bells knew, 
Old Kate started pinching and slapping, and yanking hair. 
She got to throwing dishes. All this was mostly on Old John 
Bell and Betsy. 

Like Old John had been afraid it would be, the whole com- 
munity started laughing at him and the family. People came 
in droves to the house. They wanted a good time out of the 
show they thought the family was putting on. Not just farm- 
ers, but preachers and lawyers and merchants came. Men in 
all walks of life shoved in and some of them pretty hard- 
headed practical men. When word of the witch's doings 
spread around, people from the eastern states and even from 
New England showed up at the Bells'. Well, those people left 
convinced. Most of them left in a hurry and across lots! 

To begin with. Old Kate was a rip-roarer when it came to 
reUgion. At scriptural arguments she couldn't be beat. She 
could shame even Sugg Fort and James Gunn, who were the 
main preachers in the Red River Country and mighty vessels 
of the Lord. There was a man by the name of Jeems Johnson 




who couldn't string a sentence together without using the 
Bible as a crutch. Well, he had to stand back when Old Kate 
started raring. She'd squall, "Button up, Old Sugar-Mouth, 
and let somebody that knows the Book have a say! " 

Let a revival or a prayer meeting come along and sure's a 
gun's iron they'd hear Old Kate's voice ripping away above 
the others in the Amen-corner. Witch or no witch, she could 
pray longer and sing louder than any preacher in the coun- 
try. Wasn't a single wailer on the anxious-bench could stand 
against her at the holy laugh and the holy shout. When she 
started speaking in tongues, everybody else had to shut up. 
They say she sort of upset those meetings. 



142 Raring Around with the Boys 

It got so that Old Kate took on herself the job of looking 
out for the public morals. Right then a sort of epidemic of 
righteousness started going in Robertson County. Horse 
thieves shied away from blooded mares like the mares would' ve 
shied at a white polecat on a night road. Didn't need locks 
on comcribs or smokehouses any longer. Sundays really got 
to be Sabbath then, with nobody daring to work or cook and 
everybody packing off to church. Grog-shop keepers got 
lank and hungry and evangelists grew butter-fat and had clean 
shirts every day. The scandal-trots held their tongues no mat- 
ter if they were a-bust with gossipTTruth of it was that there 
was mighty little to gossip about. Husbands got mighty loving 
and faithful to their wives and trifling women just disap- 
peared. Yes sir, and business deals were honest and politicians 
told the truth or kept their mouths sewed. Nobody could make 
a move that she didn't know about and tell it abroad. 

Well, one evening a group of guests were sitting around 
on the front porch of the Bell home. So an argument started 
over whether a man is ever justified in stealing. One of the 
men spoke up and said the Mercy Seat couldn't hold a man 
to book for stealing a little bite to eat when he's hungry. 

Right then Old Kate's voice broke in. "Have you eat them 
sheepskins yet?" she said. 

And everybody there knew what became of a bale of 
sheepskins that had just been stolen from a neighboring 
farmer. The man left the country. Went to Arkansas, they 
say. 

A lot of people in Robertson County got to believing that 
Old Kate was sent by heaven to rid the country of sin. And 
if that was so, what couldn't she do for the whole United 
States? I've heard that there was some pretty serious talk of 



The Hag of Red River 143 

sending her to Congress. With Old Kate in Washington, all 
the trouble about admitting Missouri to the Union as a slave 
state would be settled in the twinkle of a bedpost! She'd pull 
a few blue Yankee noses and pinch a few Yankee rears and 
everything would be settled. 

Nothing much came of the notion, though. Old Kate all of 
a sudden took a turn nobody'd looked for. 

The Methodists and Baptists of the Red River section both 
planned to hold revival meetings on the same day, and Old 
Kate was just a glutton for preaching. So she went to the 
first half of the Methodist meeting and the second half of the 
Baptist and carried on her usual shouting and Amening. This 
time Old Kate had grabbed more than she could hold. She 
might have stood the Baptist baptising or the Methodist 
hoorah, but Methodist fire and Baptist water, both in the 
same day, were just too much for the poor old thing. She 
left the second meeting as^scramble-witted as an old hen that's 
hatched.a mess of_guinea-f owls^ 

So what happened! Old Kate backslid, is what happened. 
She made off from meeting to John Gardner's stillhouse and 
she took on a buck-load of raw tanglefoot and got drunker 
than seven hundred fools. Went home and started acting up 
all over the place. She turned the Bell house out of windows 
and she yelled low-down songs and she swore red, white, and 
blue, and kicked and pinched and thumped John and Betsy 
Bell till they ran screaming in all directions. This went on 
till she passed out. From then on Old Kate was a regular 
hell-waker! 

Not a day passed but her tinny voice dingdonged at John 
Bell, "I'm going to dog you to your grave and I'm going to 
bhght the life of that dough-faced Betsy of yours!" She 



144 Raring Around with the Boys 

whacked John Bell and Betsy black and blue. She stuck them 
with invisible needles and snatched food from the table and 
flung it in their faces. From sun-up till the dark of day she 
cussed and rared and tore around. Mind you, all this took 
place in front of dozens of witnesses outside of the Bell fam- 
ily. It wasn't just a story the Bells told. 

The rest of the family mostly got off light. Maybe she'd 
box the boys' ears or tug Esther's hair, but usually she left 
them alone. Sometimes she acted like she was right fond of 
Mrs. Bell. When Mrs. Bell was sick, Old Kate sang hymns to 
her in a soft musical voice instead of that screech of hers, 
and Old Kate somehow had nothing but good to say of 
Richard Powell, the schoolmaster. 

For a short time there, the Bells didn't have to put up with 
Old Kate alone. Kate had company, some visiting relatives 
named Blackdog, Cycography, Mathematics, and Jerusalem. 
Blackdog had a hoarse woman's voice and Mathematics talked 
like a whining girl. Jerusalem sounded like a bull-roarer and 
you just couldn't place Cycography. Sometimes Cycography 
sounded like a woman. Again Cycography sounded like a 
man. Cycography always sounded drunk. Day and night the 
five kept the Bell house in an uproar. They bickered and 
sang and fought like a bunch of tomcats in a sack. After a 
while Old Kate got tired of them. She said, "I like comers but 
I like goers better." So she ran Blackdog, Cycography, Mathe- 
matics, and Jerusalem away and they stayed away. 

Time after time the Bells got fed up and planned to move 
to some other state. But every time the witch warned, "It'll 
do you no good. Old Jack Bell. I'll follow you to the ends 
of the earth. You ought to know that by now, you jingle- 
headed old fool!" 



The Hag of Red River 145 

So the Bells just stayed on where they were and kept pray- 
ing. 

By and by Betsy grew into a fine pretty girl with blue eyes 
and goldenrod-yellow hair. Any number of young blades 
clamored around to keep her company. Even Schoolmaster 
Powell was bad hit. But young Joshua Gardner, one of the 
few men in Robertson County that Old Kate couldn't cow, 
was the one Betsy favored. Josh had several run-ins with the 
witch and Old Kate hated him almost as much as she did John 
Bell. 

"Don't marry Josh Gardner!" she everlastingly rattled at 
Betsy. "You'll be woeful sorry if you do!" 

Say Betsy set her head on going to a party with Josh. Well, 
Old Kate'd make it well-nigh impossible for her to get ready. 
She'd tangle that poor girl's long hair with burrs, and rip 
her frock, or gouge at her eyes. She wouldn't leave off until 
Betsy threw herself on the bed in a crying fit and promised 
not to go. Betsy could go wherever she wanted to with other 
boys and Old Kate wouldn't say pea-turkey to her about it. 

They say Old Kate kept an extra special shindig for the 
pure-rendered pious folks that came to the Bell home. They'd 
be setting around talking religion when all at once the house 
would fill with a terrible smell. It was so bad that everybody 
would skip out into the open air, gasping and coughing for 
breath. Then Old Kate would sing out, "Well I declare, 
bretheren! First time I ever see folks before as couldn't put 
up with the odor of their own sanctity!" 

Now, there were lots of people that just swore they'd seen 
Old Kate. Some said she was like a shadow on the wall— a tiny 
hopping little old woman shadow— or a big black hound. 
Others said she was like a mule with a human face or a queer 



146 Raring Around with the Boys 

bird that was larger than an eagle. Some saw her as a rabbit 
that sat up and laughed when it was shot at and a good many 
said she was an old hag in a great tremendous poke-bonnet, 
ambling along backroads at twilight and champing her gums 
and spitting at people she passed. Funny thing, but aside from 
Betsy's story about meeting the little green woman, none of 
the Bells themselves claimed to have seen the witch. It's said, 
though, that one of the boys said that once he'd grabbed her 
hand and it'd felt soft as velvet and warm. 

Andrew Jackson once met Old Kate. Seems he'd heard the 
wild tales from Robertson County, so he got together half a 
dozen young bloods from the barroom of the Nashville Inn 
and set out for the Bell farm. In the party was a man named 
Busby, a top-notch witch-killer, according to him. He told 
Andy he'd give the Bell Witch her proper come-uppance even 
if she turned out to be a devil straight from hell. 

Well, at the very moment Jackson's carriage crossed the 
boundary of the Bell property, the wheels locked. The driver 
whip-tailed the horses and cussed them out. Jackson poked 
his head out of the window and raised cain with the driver 
and horses. But nothing happened. The carriage wheels might 
just as well have been locked with padlocks. 

About that time a voice caterwauled out of the air over the 
carriage. "You can go on now. General," it said. "I'll see you 
tonight." 

Sure enough Old Kate was good as her word. That night 
at the Bells' her voice spoke up right in front of Busby. It 
cackled, "Here I am! Shoot me! Do something, old witch- 
killer! Try me!" 

Busby jerked out his horse-pistol— he had it specially primed 
and loaded with a charmed silver bullet— and drew down in 



The Hag of Red River 147 

the direction the voice came from and squeezed the trigger. 
The hammer clicked, and that was all. The pistol wouldn't go 
off. 

Then Busby's nose, uncommonly long and tipped with a red 
rum-blossom, began to twist. It twisted tUl Busby was 
hopping and yelling to beat the band. He went tripping across 
the room just like somebody was leading him by the nose. The 
door flew open and there was a loud thump. Dust flew from 
the seat of Busby's breeches. He went sailing through the door 
and rolled down the steps. Soon as he hit the bottom, he 
jumped to his feet and ran hke a turkey. 

"There's some more frauds in your party, General," said 
Old Kate. "I'll show 'em all up in a little while." When she 
said that, the whole party, Jackson leading, jumped for the 
door and lit out for Nashville as hard as they could tear. 

Afterwards, somebody asked Andy about the meeting and 
the old boy said, "By the Eternal, I'd rather fight the British 
again than have any dealings with that torment called the Bell 
Witch!" 

One morning about a year after that, John Bell was found 
dead in his room. Sitting on a chair by the bedside was a bottle 
of poison. Nobody knew how it got there. The family, of 
course, was convinced it was the work of the witch. Truth 
to tell, after John Bell's funeral. Old Kate left the Bells, and 
the years passed and nobody heard any more of the hag. 

A long time later— in 1839, they say— Betsy Bell and Josh 
Gardner went to a Bell family picnic where they were going 
to announce their engagement. All the Bells and their kin 
came, and just as Josh Gardner called for attention to make 
his announcement, a loud voice cut in. "Well, well," it said, 
"here we all are!" 




Old Mrs. Bell threw up her hands and started crying, "Have 
mercy on my soul! It's Old Kate!" 

"Who in thunder did you think it was?" the voice said. 
"I've come back to make sure that fly-up-the-creek Betsy 
don't marry that Josh Gardner. Don't you dast do it, Betsy! 
I'll make your two lives a Hell on earth if you do!" 

Old Kate ranted on in her usual way for a while and ended 
up by saying, "I'm going now, but mark my words, I'll be 
back in a hundred years. I'll have a sight of bad news then 



The Hag of Red River 149 

for the folks of Tennessee and for the whole blamed Nation! " 
Her voice kept fading and died away on the last word. 

Before that day was out Betsy gave Josh his engagement 
ring. She wouldn't have any more to do with him. He begged 
and stormed, but Betsy couldn't be changed. In a day or 
so Josh left Robertson County for good. Went to Texas, they 
say. 

After he'd gone, Professor Powell began courting the girl 
again. Seems he'd never quite given up hope. At first Betsy 
refused him point blank, but finally he won her consent to 
have him and they were married. Betsy lived to be a very old 
woman, never troubled by Old Kate again. 

James R. Asivell 



/ Been Told 



De Ways of 
de Wimmens 




MOST FOLKS SAY DE SIX DAY WAS SATDY, CAUSE 

on de seventh day didn't de Lawd rest an look his creation 
over? Now hit may been Satdy dat he done de ixiork of makin 
man an woman, but from all de signs, he must thought up de 
first man an woman on ol unlucky Friday. 

Satdy aw Friday, de Lawd made em. Den he made a nice 
garden an a fine house wid a cool dogtrot faw dem to set in 
when de sun git hot. "Adam an Eve," he say, "here hit is. 
Git yo stuff together an move in." 

"Thank you kindly, Lawd," say Eve. 

"Wait a minute, Lawd," say Adam. "How we gwine pay 
de rent? You ain't create no money yet, is you?" 

De Lawd say, "Don't worry yo haid bout dat, Adam. Hit's 
a free gift faw you an de little woman." 

So de man and woman move in an start to red up de house 

153 



154 ^ Been Told 

to make hit comfortable to live in. And den de trouble begun. 

"Adam," say de woman, "you git de stove put up while I 
hangs de curtains." 

"Whyn't you put up de stove," say Adam, "an me hang 
de curtains? You's strong as me. De Lawd ain't make neither 
one of us stronger dan de other. Howcome you always shovin 
off de heavy stuff on me?" 

"Cause dey's man's work and dey's woman's work, Adam," 
say Eve. "Hit don't look right faw me to do dat heavy stuff." 

"Don't look right to who?" say Adam. "Who gwine see 
hit? You know dey ain't no neighbors yet." 

Eve stomp de flo. She say, "Jes cause hit ain't no neighbors 
yet ain't no reason faw us actin trashy behind dey backs, is 
hit?" 

"Ain't dat jes like a woman!" say Adam. Den he set down 
and fold his arms. "I ain't gwine put up no stove!" he say. 
"An dat dat, woman!" 

Next thing he know ol Eve lollop him in de talk-box wid 
her fist an he fall over backward like a calf hit by lightnin. 
Den he scramble up an was all over her like a wildcat. Dey 
bang an scuffle round dere to * de house look like a cyclone 
wind been playin in hit. Neither one could whup, cause de 
Lawd had laid de same equal strenth on dem both. 

After while dey's both too wore out to scrap. Eve flop 
on de baid and start kickin her feets an bawlin. "Why you 
treat me so mean, Adam?" she holler. "Wouldn't treat a no- 
count ol hound like you does po me!" 

Adam spit out a tooth an try to open de black eye she give 
him. He say, "If I had a hound dat bang into me like you 
does, I'd kill him." 
•tiU 



De Ways of de Wimmens 155 

But Eve start bawlin so loud, wid de tears jes sopping up 
de bedclose, dat Adam sneak out of de house. Feelin mighty 
mean an low, he set round awhile out behind de smokehouse 
studyin whut better he do. Den he go find de Lawd. 

De Lawd say, "Well, Adam? Anything bout de house 
won't work? Hit's de first one I ever made an hit might have 
some faults." 

Adam shake his head. "De house is prime, Lawd. De house 
couldn't be no better dan hit is." 

"Whut den, Adam?" say de Lawd. 

"To tell de truth," say Adam, "hit's dat Eve woman. Lawd, 
you made us wid de equal strenth an dat's de trouble. I can't 
git de best of her nohow at all." 

De Lawd frown den. "Adam!" he say. "Is you tryin to 
criticize de Lawd? Course you's of de equal strenth. Dat de 
fair way to make a man an woman so dey both pull in de 
harness even." 

Adam tremble an shake but he so upset an miserble he jes 
has to keep on. He say, "But Lawd, hit reely ain't equal tween 
de two of us." 

Lawd say, "Be keerful dere, Adam! You is Jesputin de 
Lawd smack to de face! " 

"Lawd," say Adam, "like you says, we is equal in de strenth. 
But dat woman done found nother way to fight. She start 
howlin an blubberin to hit make me feel like I's a lowdown 
scamp. I can't stand dat sound, Lawd. If hit go on like dat, I 
knows ol Eve gwine always git her way an make me do all 
de dirty jobs." 

"Howcome she learn dat trick?" say de Lawd, looldn like 
he thinkin hard. "Ain't seed no little ol red man wid hawns 
an a pitchfawk hangin round de place, is you, Adam?" 



156 / Been Told 

"Naw, Lawd. Thought I heard Eve talkin wid somebody 
down in de apple orchard dis mawnin, but she say hit jes de 
wind blowin. Naw, I ain't seed no red man wid hawns. Who 
would dat be, anyhow, Lawd?" 

"Never you mind, Adam," say de Lawd. ^^Hinrmrnnmnrmr 

"Well," say Adam, "dis woman trouble got me down. I 
sho be much oblige if you makes me stronger dan Eve. Den 
I can tell her to do a thing an slap her to she do. She do whut 
she told if she know she gwine git whupped." 

"So be hit!" say de Lawd. "Look at yoself, Adam!" 

Well Adam look at his arms. Where befo dey was smooth 
an round, now de muscle bump up like prize yams. Look 
like hit was two big cawn pones under de skin of his chest 
an dat chest hit was like a barrel. His belly hit was hke a wash- 
board an his laigs was so awful big an downright lumpy dey 
scared him. 

"Thank you kindly, good Lawd!" say Adam. "Watch de 
woman mind me now!" So dat Adam high-tail hit home an 
bust in de back do. 

Eve settin down rockin in de rocker. Eve lookin mean. 
Didn't say a mumblin word when Adam come struttin in. 
Jes look at him, jes retch down in de woodbox faw a big 
stick of kindlin. 

"Drap dat stick, woman! " say Adam. 

"Say who?" say de woman. "Who dat talkin big round 
here?" 

Wid dat, she jump on him an try to hammer his haid dov^nn 
wid de stick. 

Adam jes laugh an grab de stick an heave hit out de win- 
dow. Den he give her a lazy little slap dat sail her clean cross 
de room. "D<?^ who sayin hit, sugar! " he say. 



De Ways of de Wimmens 157 

"My feets must slip aw somethin," say Eve. "An you de 
one gwine pay faw hit out of yo hide, Adam!" 

So de woman come up clawin an kickin an Adam pick 
her up an whop her down. 

"Feets slip agin, didn't dey?" say Adam. 

"Hit must be I couldn't see good where you is in dis dark 
room," say Eve. She riz up an feather into him agin. 

So Adam he pick her up an thow her on de baid. Fo she 
know whut, he start laying hit on wid de flat of his hand cross 
de big end of ol Eve. Smack her wid one hand, hold her down 
wid tother. 

Fo long Eve bust out bawlin. She say, "Please quit dat 
whackin me, Adam honey! Aw please, honey!" 

"Is I de boss round here?" say Adam. 

"Yas, honey," she say. "You is de haid man boss." 

"Aw right," he tell her. "I is de boss. De Lawd done give 
me de mo power of us two. From now on out an den some, 
you mind me, woman! Whut I jes give you ain't nothin but 
a Httle hum. Next time I turn de whole song loose on you." 

He give Eve a shove an say, "Fry me some catfish, woman." 

"Yas, Adam honey," she say. 

But ol Eve was mad enough to bust. She wait till Adam 
catchin little nap. Den she flounce down to de orchard where 
dey's a big ol apple tree wid a cave tween de roots. She look 
round till she sho ain't nobody see her, den she stick her 
haid in de cave an holler. 

Now, hit may been de wind blowin an hit 7nay been a bird, 
but hit sho sound Hke somebody in dat cave talkin wid Eve. 
Eve she sound hke she com^hXmn dat she got a crooked deal 
an den hit sound like she say in, "Yas— Yas— Yas. You means 
on which wall? De east wall? Oh! Aw right." 



De Ways of de Wimmens 159 

Anyhow, Eve come back to de house all smilin to herself 
like she know somethin. She powerful sweet to Adam de rest 
of de day. 

So next mawnin Eve go an find de Lawd. 

Lawd say, "You agin, Eve? Whut can I do faw you?" 

Eve smile an drap a pretty curtsy. "Could you do me a little 
ol favor, Lawd?" say Eve. 

"Name hit, Eve," say de Lawd. 

"See dem two little ol rusty keys hangin on dat nail on de 
east wall?" Eve say. "If you ain't usin em, I wish I had dem 
little ol keys." 

"I declare!" say de Lawd. "I done fawgot dey's hangin 
dere. But, Eve, dey don't fit nothin. Found em in some junk 
an think maybe I find de locks dey fit some day. Dey been 
hangin on dat nail ten million years an I ain't found de locks 
yet. If you want em, take em. Ain't doin me no good." 

So Eve take de two keys an thank de Lawd an trot on home. 
Dere was two dos dere widout no keys an Eve find dat de 
two rusty ones fit. 

"Aaah!" she say. "Here's de locks de Lawd couldn't find. 
Now, Mister Adam, we see who de boss!" Den she lock de 
two dos an hide de keys. 

Fo long Adam come in out of de garden. "Gimme some 
food, woman!" he say. 

"Can't, Adam," say Eve. "De kitchen do's locked." 

"I fix dat!" say Adam. So he try to bust de kitchen do 
down. But de Lawd built dat do an Adam can't even scratch 
hit. 

Eve say, "Well, Adam honey, if you go out in de woods an 
cut some wood faw de fire, I maybe can git de kitchen do 




open. Maybe I can put one dem cunjur tricks on hit. Now, 
run long, honey, an git de wood." 

"Wood choppin is yo work," say Adam, "since I got de most 
strenth. But I do hit dis once an see can you open de do." 

So he git de wood an when he come back, Eve has de do 
open. An from den on out Eve kept de key to de kitchen an 
made Adam haul in de wood. 

Well, after supper Adam say, "Come on, honey, les you an 
me hit de froghair." 

"Can't," say Eve. "De baidroom do is locked." 

"D^^lame!" say Adam. "Reckon you can trick dat do too, 
Eve?" 

"Might can," say Eve. "Honey, you jes git a piece of tin an 
patch dat little hole in de roof an while you's doin hit, maybe 
I can git de baidroom do open." 

So Adam patched de roof an Eve she unlock de baidroom do. 
From den on she kept dat key an used hit to suit herself. 

So dat de reason, de very reason, why de mens thinks dey is 



De Ways of de Wimmens i6i 

de boss and de wimmens knows dey is boss, cause dey got dem 
two little ol keys to use in dat slippery sly wimmen's way. Yas, 
fawever mo an den some! 

An if you don't know dat already, you ain't no married man. 

James R. Aswell 




Snake Country 



DIS USE TO BE SNAKE COUNTRY. I MEANS REEL 
snake country. Dis day an time dey kills a rattlesnake now 
an den back yander in de cedars aw maybe a black racer 
aw a highland water moccasin. But dem is jes de leavins, jes 
de drugs of whut hit use to be. 

In my young days man couldn't hardly walk from de house 
to de barn widout he carry a big sharp cawnknife to chop 
snakes out de way. Man couldn't walk dem days like we 
does today noway. Had to keep jumpin an bouncin up and 
down like a grasshopper less he want his laigs all chaw up by 
de snakes. Hit wawn't nothin to see snakes jes hangin by de 
hundreds off tree limbs like wash on de line. Dese days folks 
gits sung to sleep by katydids an treefrawgs. My day hit 
was de snakes hissin in de yard an under de house an quiled 
up on de rooftree dat lull us down. 

162 



Snake Country 163 

Hit was reel snake country den. Folks was use to hit. 

Hard to keep cows dem days. Too many milksnakes round 
here. Dem milk snakes was sho bad, too. Dey's dark kind of 
black snakes wid a mouf like a funnel. Dey hang round de 
pasture lot jes waitin faw de cows' bags to fill up wid milk. 
Den right smack up de cow's left hind laig go de snake an 
grab hold an start suckin faw who laugh de longest. Wouldn't 
turn loose dat cow's titses till dey look faw a fact Hke some ol 
dry rag. 

I's heard niggers didn't know whut dey talkin about say 
a cow dat been suck by a milksnake always give bloody an 
pizen milk from den on. Shoo! Ain't so. Back in dem snaky 
times I found out de way hit reely is. 

Dem days I's workin faw Mist Joe Biggerstaff. Mist Joe 
he had fawty cows an a red bull but de bull got drownded. 
Well, dem fawty cows was all good milkers but Mist Joe 
never got none of dat milk. De milksnakes got hit every drap. 
By an by Mist Joe got mad. 

He say, "Dog my cats and dog em good, I's gwine git some 
of dat milk if I bust doin hit! " 

So he git me an thirty-nine other niggers an say, "Each one 
of you boys git a big hickory stick an pick you a cow. Stick 
wid dat cow all day. Beat off dem milksnakes. Yes, whop 
dem ol snakes, boys! Faw I aims to drink ol sweetmilk to- 
night." 

So hit was fawty niggers an fawty cows bound faw de 
pasture lot. Whoppin snakes every foot of de way! My soul, 
weavin round to we's dizzy. But we frail em wid de hickory 
sticks, we tromp em in de dust an we kept em off from de 
cows. 

De sun was hot, mighty hot. Now, hotter de sun git, de 



164 / Been Told 

livelier de snake feel. But hotter de sun, de sleepier de nigger. 
Sun bear down, snakes jes hissin an cavortin, niggers whoppin 
slower an slower an noddin dey haids. 

Fo long we's all so tired-haided an sleepy we can't stand 
hit no mo. One after de next one all dem thirty-nine niggers 
sort of drap his hickory stick and keel over on de ground. 
I's de last nigger up. Mist Joe trust me an I try to keep dem 
snakes oif one cow anyway. But dat sun git hotter an hotter. 
My haid weigh mo an mo. So fo long sleepy got me, an dey 
was fawty niggers stretch out in de sun snorin away. 

Towards shadder of day we wakes up. We looks round 
faw de cows. Dere dey stands chawin dey cud an lookin 
happy. 

"Looky dem bags!" I say. '']es little ol dried up nothins!" 

"Whut will Mist Joe say?" say nother nigger. 

I say, "He bust a fence rail over somebody's haid, dat whut 
he say." 

I looks round. I sees dem hateful ol milksnakes, fawty big 
ones all swole up wid milk to de bigness of a fat man's laig, 
layin up sound asleep. I look at em an I can feel Mist Joe 
landin dat fence rail upside my haid. 

Den de bright notion hit me. "Boys," I say, "you all grab 
up dem milksnakes. Thow one over de back of each of dem 
cows." 

So dey done hit an we driv de cows home. De nigger gals 
was waitin at de barn to milk. "We can't git no milk out of 
dem shrunk things," dey say. "Mist Joe gwine lam some- 
body, sho!" 

I say, "Shet yo fool haids an learn somethin!" 

Well, I didn't do nothin but hang up dem fawty sleepy 
ol snakes by dey tails. Naw, I didn't do a thing but milk 



1 66 7 Been Told 

dem snakes from de tail down to de haid. Ol milk jes come 
foamerin out an fill de buckets. Milk enough faw man an 
chile an fawty-leven gallons left over faw de hawgs an 
chickens. 

So from den on we never fool wid milkin no cows. We 
jes milk de snakes. 

We's pretty use to de little ol rattlers an copperhaids an 
moccasins round dere. Pitch em out of de yard wid fawks 
like dey pitches hay dese days. ChHlun play wid em like dey 
plays wid puppies now. But dem stingin snakes, dey was kind 
of bad. Dey was right handsome to look at, all spottled green 
an yaller wid a red streak down dey backs. But dey was 
devils. Pizen at both end, in de bite an in de sting. De ol 
buck an she stingin snakes was tween fifteen an twenty-five 
foot long, an I has seen em bigger. 

One year back yander dey was a regular siege of stingin 
snakes round Mist Joe Biggerstaff 's. Dey stang an bit most 
everybody round dere. But de good Lawd never put nothin 
bad on dis earth dat he didn't put somethin else good dat 
would cure hit. So hit was wid dem ol stingin snakes. If you's 
stang by one of em, you go let a rattlesnake bite you an dat 
kill de sting pizen. If you's bit by tother end of a stingin 
snake, why de pizen of a copperhaid cure dat. Mist Joe kept 
two barrels in de house, one full of rattlers an tother fuU of 
copperhaids. When anybody go out dey tote two fruit jars 
round dey neck wid couple of copperhaids an rattlers in 
dem case de party got stang or bit by de stingin snakes. So 
nobody round dere got killt by dem rascals. 

But dem snakes done nother thing dat was bad. Mist Joe 
he had a fine stand of walnut trees aimin to sell em faw 
money. You know dem stingin snakes was jes ruinin dat walnut 



Snake Country 167 

stand. Dey stang de trees an de leaves turn yaller an drap 
off an de wood rot. 

"Ain't gwine stand faw dis no longer!" Mist Joe say. 
"Boy," he say to me, "you handle dem milksnakes pretty 
good. See whut you can do wid dese thorn-tail torments." 

So I set down an study hit an f o long de notion come to 
me. I's a mighty fast young buck in dem days. I's so blame 
fast I's de onliest one on de place ain't never been bit by no 
stingin snake. Dey jes couldn't tech me. Some of em git so 
mad when dey miss me dat dey stang aw bit de first thing 
come handy. 

Dat howcome I go out snake-huntin wid nothin but my 
fast running feets to hep me. So what did I do? I choosed me 
a mean lookin ol stingin snake. I jumps at him an flags my 
nose an yells, "Yah, yah, yah!" like dat, as hateful as I knows 
how. 

Well, dat snake say, "Here where I gits me a nigger!" He 
quile hisself up an zip his fangiddy haid at me. 

But where is me? Ain't dere no mo. I's flaggin my nose at 
tother end of dat ol snake an yellin, "Yah, yah, yah!" 

Maybe I didn't tell how de stingin snake have eyes both 
on de haid an de sting end. Anyhow, he do. So de sting end 
see me dere an whup out at me. But den I's back at de haid 
end. Haid end strike— I's back at de tail end. Tail end go faw 
me— I's at de haid. 

Fo long dat snake git so mad he jes git plumb crazy. Haid 
end see de tail end strikin an turn round an bite dat tail 
end. Tail end sting de haid end. Dey go at hit hot an heavy. 
Pretty soon de haid end git de tail end in his mouf. An dere 
go de old stingin snake rollin way like a wheel, de haid 
bitin de tail, tail stingin de haid, till dey both pizen dey selfs 



1 68 / Been Told 

to death. Heaps of folks see dat an claim hit a new kind of 
snake. Hoop snake, dey say. Shoo! Ain't so. Hit was only 
dem old stingin snakes I's driv crazy. 

An dat de way I cleared most of dem stingin snakes way 
from Mist Joe's place. 

Well, hit look like de snakes jes breeded up thicker an 
thicker every year round in dis country. Dey plagued most 
folks considerable. Mist Joe didn't have as much snake bother 
as de rest, cause he had me workin faw him. But de snakes 
got de best of me one time. 

Dat was de year de graveyard snakes was sech a pest. 
Dey's big fat old white snakes dat lives in graves. Ain't got 
no bite aw nothin to kill a man, but you hates to have em 
round you count of where dey hangs out an de way dey 
smells like a six-day cawpse. So Mist Joe had me busy keepin 
em oif de place an I didn't know how thick de moccasins was 
gittin down in de creek. 

Naw, dem moccasins had done got clean out of hand fo I 
know hit. Dey got so thick down in de creek dat dey jes 
plumb choke hit up like a dam. Well, dat creek riz up an 
overflow hits banks an hit was a little flood. 

Fo de Lawd, de water come up so fast in de bottom pas- 
ture dat hit catch Mist Joe Biggerstaff's red bull an drownd 
him fo he could git to de high ground. Mist Joe had a fine 
sorrel runnin boss name Prince an de water most caught 
dat boss, too. But Prince run like de devil beatin tan bark 
an got to a little hill fo hit too late. Water riz all round him 
an fo long he was standin up to his neck in hit. 

Well, if I'd stop long enough to figger, I'd know de dan- 
gerous fix dat fine boss was in. But I's too hard run jes den. 
Mist Joe's right after me. "Boy," he say, "git a dozen niggers 



Snake Country 169 

an a waggin an go down an clear dem moccasins out of de 
creek." 

"Yassuh, Mist Joe," I say. "Come on, you niggers," I say. 
"We gwine haul many an many a load of snakes fo dis job git 
done." 

So den we got de waggin an some hay fawks an go down 
in de bottoms an start pitchin moccasins an haulin em away. 
We go at hit so fast dat de water stop risin. 

I looks over yander an see Prince standin to his neck in 
hit an I yells, "Hold on, you Prince! You may git pretty wet 
but you won't git drownded like dat red bull." 

01 Prince he toss his haid an whinny. He know he can 
depend on ?ne. 

I ought been whupped faw not knowin whut gwine hap- 
pen to Prince. But Fs too busy fawkin moccasins in de waggin. 
De notion didn't hit me till hit too late. 

We's been fawkin de snakes out of de creek faw twenty-fo 
hours when one dem niggers yells, "Looky dat Prince!" 

So I looks an hit most surprise me to death. Dere was ol 
Prince rarin up on his hind laigs an pawin de air. His eyes was 
rollin an de white foam cotton up his mouf . 

"He gwine crazy!" say a nigger. 

"Look at his tail!" say nother. 

An den dat Prince dive right smack oif de hill in de water. 
Man, he splash dat water! Lawd, he swum like a paddle steam- 
boat, thowin up de water till hit look like a rainstorm. He 
pass us like a bullet in a hurry! 

I jes git one look at po ol Prince's tail. Hit was pitiful. Any 
fool know dat if you puts a hosshair in water faw twenty-fo 
hours hit turn into a snake. An in dem twenty-fo hours dat 
po boss been standin up to de neck in water, dat tail done turned 



lyo / Been Told 

to a mess of hosshair snakes. A thousand aw mo hosshair snakes, 
whuppin an lashin, wid dey haids buried in de po boss's rump, 
rootin an bitin faw all dey's worth. 

Hit jes naturally driv po Prince crazy. He run his self plumb 
to death after he git to dry land. And dat de time de snakes 
got de best of me. 

Faw a while back in dem days hit look like de snakes gwine 
git de best of everybody. Now, hit dis way when you crosses 
a snake's track— hit give you de hot miseries in yo back less 
you walks backwards over dat track. Dey was so many snake 
tracks dem days dat hit was mighty slow an crooked faw folks 
to git anywhere. Man starts out faw Smyrna. Every step he 
take he have to back-step. Fo dat man know hit, he done back 
his self back clean to Murfreesboro. Dat bad, cause de man 
didn't want no Murfreesboro nohow. An if he bound faw 
Murfreesboro, he land in Smyrna. So if a man want to go to 
Smyrna, he better haid faw Murfreesboro. Yes, hit was pretty 
slow an crooked dem days. 

Hit ain't no tellin how hit come out if somethin hadn't hap- 
pen. But somethin happen. 

One day bright in de mawnin an early die snakes started 
leavin de country. Yes, snakes by de tens an thousands. Rattlers 
an copperhaids, moccasins an black racers, stingin snakes, milk- 
snakes, graveyard snakes, an all. Dey come pilin out of de hills 
an bottoms till hit look like dey gwine cover de earth. Dey hit 
de roads goin west, wigglin an workin three foot deep. Dey 
hissin was so loud hit could be beared faw miles. Dey stirred up 
a dust dat darken de sun an turn day into night mighty near. 
Aw Lawd, hit ivas a sight! 

An by mawning hit wawn't a snake in dis country ceptin 
de lame, de halt, and de sickly. Dey was gone from here. 



Snake Country 171 

Faw long time dere, hit was a puzzle. I couldn't figger why 
all dem snakes left. Den I find out. 

Seem like dey's some folks round here wawn't satisfied wid 
stickin to de hard down cold ^acts bout snakes like I do. Naw, 
dey begun makin up lies about de snakes. 

So de snakes jes got mad an up an left de country, dat's whut! 

James R. Asivell 




Little Eight 
Jo/iti 




ONCE AN LONG AGO DEY WAS A LITTLE BLACK 

boy name of Eight John. He was a nice lookin little boy but 
he didn't act like he look. He mean little boy an he wouldn't 
mind a word de grown folks told him. Naw, not a livin word. 
So if his lovin mammy told him not to do a thing, he go straight 
an do hit. Yes, spite of all de world. 

"Don't step on no toad-frawgs," his lovin mammy told him, 
"aw you bring de bad lucks on yo family. Yes you will." 

Little Eight John he say, "No'm, I won't step on no toad- 
frawgs. No ma'am!" 

But jes as sho as anything, soon as he got out of sight of 
his lovin mammy, dat Little Eight John find him a toad-frawg 
an squirsh hit. Sometime he squirsh a heap of toad-frawgs. 

172 



174 ^ Been Told 

An the cow wouldn't give no milk but bloody milk an de 
baby would have de bad ol colics. 

But Little Eight John he jes duck his haid an laugh. 

"Don't set in no chair backwards," his lovin mammy told 
Eight John. "It bring de weary troubles to yo family." 

An so Little Eight John he set backwards in every chair. 

Den his lovin mammy's cawn bread burn an de milk wouldn't 
chum. 

Little ol Eight John jes laugh an laugh an laugh cause he 
know why hit was. 

"Don't climb no trees on Sunday," his lovin mammy told 
him, "aw hit will be bad luck." 

So dat Little Eight John, dat bad little boy, he sneak up trees 
on Sunday. 

Den his pappy's taters wouldn't grow an de mule wouldn't 

go- 
Little Eight John he know howcome. 

"Don't count yo teeth," his lovin mammy she tell Little 
Eight John, "aw dey come a bad sickness in yo family." 

But dat Little Eight John he go right ahaid an count his 
teeth. He count his uppers an he count his lowers. He count em 
on weekdays an Sundays. 

Den his mammy she whoop an de baby git de croup. All on 
count of dat Little Eight John, dat badness of a little ol boy. 

"Don't sleep wid yo haid at de foot of the baid aw yo family 
git de weary money blues," his lovin mammy told him. 

So he do hit an do hit sho, dat cross-goin little ol Eight John 
boy. 

An de family hit went broke wid no money in de poke. 

Little Eight John he jes giggle. 



Little Eight John 175 

"Don't have no Sunday moans, faw fear Ol Raw Haid 
Bloody Bones," his lovin mammy told him. 

So he had de Sunday moans an he had de Sunday groans, 
an he moan an he groan an he moan. 

An 01 Raw Haid Bloody Bones he come after dat little bad 
boy an change him to a little ol grease spot on de kitchen table 
an his lovin mammy wash hit off de next mawnin. 

An dat was de end of Little Eight John. 

An dat whut always happen to never-mindin little boys. 

James R. Aswell 




.^^^ 




One fine funeral 



DE LAWD AIN'T COIN LET NOBODY GIT AWAY 

wid no meanness. Sometime it look like he ain't payin no mind 
to what happen, he let some folkses git by so long. Den agin, 
don't nobody know a pusson is up to no devilment till de Lawd 
put de sign of his vengeance on dem. Yes, de Lawd move in a 
mysterious way, but he do move. 

Like it was wid Addie Bell Henslee and her brother Cass, de 
time Cass want to git married, Cass come home dis Friday night 
and say to Addie Bell, "Addie Bell," he say, "I goin git married 
wid Josephine tomorrow week." 

Addie Bell don't like dat «-tall. 

"What de name of God you talkin bout, Cass?" she say, 
"What ail you, you simlin-brain, frizz-headed fool? You mean 

176 



One Fine Funeral . 177 

dat lanky, haggy-lookin Josie Foxhall? You ain't got no busi- 
ness marryin dat dim yaller bat-face wench. She so snotty she 
won't speak to her own mammy. You ain't got no business mar- 
ryin nobody. You got all de wimmens you wants right here on 
North Central Street. Far as dat go, you got dis Josie, too, so 
what for you want to marry her?" 

"Josephine she think we ought to git married," Cass say. 
"It seem like de right thing to do. And please, Addie, don't call 
her Josie. You know how she like for folkses to call her her 
right name, Josephine." 

Addie Bell say, "Oh she do, do she? Josephine, huh?" she 
say. "Well / got a lots better name for her dan dat. Jest you 
wait till I sees her! I sho will tell her a few mouffulls of sump'm. 
Dat shriveled-out, shrunk-up, pale-faded hussy! She look like 
a frostbit pole bean. I swear I believe you done plumb lost yo 
mind, Cass." 

So dey talk and dey argue. Dey go on like dis for a long spell. 
And Addie Bell she ask how come Cass ain't please to stay wid 
her like he always done. 

"Ain't I always take good care of you and provide for you 
good?" she say. "Is you ever have to turn a lick of work, you 
black-weazled, monkey-face baboon? You de laziest nigger in 
town. And ain't I always keep up insurance on you to bury 
you good? Ain't never a week I fails to pay yo quarter benefits 
long wid mine. And now when you is gittin so old you most 
dead anyway, you wants to go and git married! Old age done 
smite you in de head, Cass. You done gone and got soft in de 
head." 

Cass say, "Dat jest what I want to tell you bout, Addie. 
About de insurance, I mean. A man's ivije is due and bound 
to git his insurance, Addie. Everhody know dat. I done tell 




Josephine I knowed you won't mind, to make her de bene- 
ficiary, Addie." 

"You whatF" Addie Bell say. "You tell her you knowed I 
won't mind? I see you toastin on a pitchfawk in hell befo I sees 
dat dough-face slut collect any insurance dat / paid de benefits 
on." 

Cass don't git much sleep dat night. Addie Bell take on 
sump'm awful. Ever once in a while she let up and Cass figure 
she bout wo out now. He say to his self, she bound to quit now. 
Den she start in agin twice as strong. 



One Fine Funeral 179 

Cass turn over on de bed and stuff de bedclothes in his years, 
but he can't shut out Addie Bell. It go on dis way all night long 
and Cass can't stand it much longer. Soon as gray begin to crack 
in de sky he git up and leave de house. 

Cass sneak in pretty late dat night and de next few days he 
lay low. But Addie Bell ain't say no mo bout Cass gittin mar- 
ried. So long Monday or Tuesday Cass git up his nerve and 
mention de insurance agin. 

He say, "Josephine and me aimin to git married dis comin 
Saturday, Addie. I sho do hope you's decided to fix up dat in- 
surance all right?" 

Addie Bell say yes, she done study and J^cide Cass is right. 
She say she make de insurance over soon as Cass and Josie git 
married. 

So de insurance man come round dat Wednesday to collect 
de benefit. And Addie Bell double Cass's insurance. So now it 
cost fifty cents a week where it is only cost twenty-five. But 
Addie Bell know dat de last time she have to pay de benefits. 

Friday night Addie Bell fix Cass a sho nough fine supper. She 
say, "Cass, dis is de last time I git to cook for you, so I wants 
you to enjoy and remember it. I done fix everthing I knows you 
likes best. Dey's de likeliest mess of turnip greens you ever 
see, cook wid a whole hog jowl and plenty of poke salad mix 
in. And cawn pone and buttermilk to go long. And day's oodles 
of fried chicken, cook all crunchy and brown Hke you likes it. 
And a big pot of black-eyed peas wid de hot pepper chow-chow 
you likes. I do hope you likes it, Cass." 

Cass like it, all right. Dat Cass was one man relish eatin._He_ 
eat like a old black betsy s ow wid te n new^igs. He clean de 
table off. 

Addie Bell ain't eat none herself. She jest stand by and wait 



o / Been Told 

i8o 

on Cass. "Have some mo poke salad, Cass," she say. "Let me po 

you some mo buttermilk. And dey's a sweet tater pie for destn, 

I wants you to eat hearty, Cass." 

jCass eat hearty, all right. He shovel it in like de ni^^er fire- 

mens stokin de Robert E. Lee. 

Bout a half hour after supper Cass sit on de front stoop smok- 
ing his old cawn-cob. All to once he grab his belly and bend up 
plumb double. He fall outen de chair and commence to holler 
till all de niggers on North Central Street beared him and come 
a-runnin. "Oh, Addie, honey, Fse a-dying! Oh, Addie, call 
de doctor quick!" 

"Hush yo mouf , you fool no-good nigger! " Addie Bell say. 
"Ain't nothin de matter wid you cept you done made a hog of 
yo-self . You plain done eat too much. You ain't need a doctor 
no mo dan I does." 

But Cass he done dead by time de last niggers git dere from 
de far end of North Central Street. So dey lay Cass out on de 
bed and put some money pieces on his eyelids. Dey turn de 
mirror and pictures to de wall. Some of dem start to moan. 

"Po Cass!" dey say. "Po Cass, you gone and left us. Done 
gone and left po Addie. Done gone and left po Josie. Po Cass, 
po Cass, done gone to meet Sweet Jesus!" 

Some of dem whispers and say, "Po Cass sho do die hard. Dat 
look bad for Addie. Cass come back and hant her, sho." 

But Addie Bell ain't seem much upstt. When she see Cass 
done plumb dead she call de insurance doctor. So de doctor 
come and look at Cass and he say Cass is dead. 

So he ask Addie some questions bout Cass and how old he is 
and how he die,. And he fill out de papers to say Cass die wid de 
cute indigestion, which meanwiHTgodawful bellyached 

When de doctor leaveTAddie Bell call de undertaker and dey 



One Fine Funeral i8i 

lay Cass out for buryin. Dey wrap Cass up in windin sheets and 
lay him out on de coolin-board. Addie Bell tell de undertaker 
to do de funeral up in high style, cause she git twice as much 
insurance as usual. She say she want Cass to have de biggest 
and best funeral North Central Street ever see. 

Den Addie Bell call some regular moaners to come in and help 
dem moan. And now Addie Bell got de business all done, so she 
start in to moan herself. She carry on mo dan anybody. 

Some of dem say dis look funny. "How come?" dey say, to 
one nother. "Addie Bell ain't much put-out till now. She ain't 
seem much broke up at first, and now she moan louder dan 
anybody." 

"Dat ain't all look funny," say some others. "How come Cass 
die on dis Friday? Jest when he bout to git married tomorrow? 
And Addie Bell don't seem no bit surprised when he die. Dey's 
sump'm someways pecuhar." 

So dey talk to one nother, but Addie Bell ain't take no notice. 
And when Josie Foxhall come in, Addie kiss her and call her, 
"Po honey." And each cry down de other one's neck. 

De niggers come in from near and far to set up wid de corpse 
and help moan. Dey bring plenty white cawn to keep wakeful 
and dey moan for three nights and two days. 

On de third day dey hold Cass's funeral. Niggers come from 
all over and de church house was plumb packed full. When you 
stand off a piece and look at it, de walls looks like dey bulge 
out. Dey was old niggers, young niggers, rich niggers, po nig- 
gers, near niggers, far niggers, and a lot dat jest plain niggers. 
And some of dem sad and some of dem glad, but all of dem 
pretty well drunk. Dey's mo niggers and autos on hand dan 
North Central Street ever see. Dat sho is a fine funeral. 

Out in de church yard de grave is dug, six foot deep and six 



1 82 / Been Told 

long. And a awning spread overhead to keep it dry if it rain. 
And a striped canopy awning from de church door out to de 
street. But ain't no cloud in de sky, and de June sun shine like a 
wash-day fire. Sho is a fine day for de funeral. 

Inside de church house dey so many niggers don't look like 
dey's room for de corpse. But Cass lying dere right up front in 
a satin-line coffin wid gold handles. And de fernses and flowers 
stack waist deep all round. Dat sho is a mighty fine funeral. 

So de preacher git up and dey sing some hymns and dey sho 
do sing dem sweet. De window panes rattle and de shingles 
shake and de whole church house creak and groan. 

Den de preacher commence to pray and he pray for mo dan 
a hour. Dis preacher name Brother Bumpas and he sho can pray 
and preach. Den dey all sing another hymn, and de preacher 
commence to preach. And he preach all about Heaven. 

"Brethem and sisters," he say, "we ought all of us think about 
Heaven, but most of de time we don't. But when de Lawd call 
one among us, den we should stop and study about it. 

"And now dat Cass is in Heaven, we wonder what do he find 
dere? I tell you brethern and sisters, he find it a wondrous place. 

"When Cass enter dem pearly gates, amazement done seize 
upon him. He find it a land some ways like de earth, only a lot 
mo prettier. Like de prettiest place on dis earth, only a lot mo 
prettier. 

"Now consider dese flowers and fernses," he say, "dat stack 
all about Cass's coffin. Do Cass find flowers like dese in Heaven? 
Well, he do and he don't. Fine as dese flowers here is, dey don't 
hold a nubbin to dem dat's in Heaven. Dey is fernses and flow- 
ers and shrubses dat's bigger and greener dan any on dis earth. 
Cass he see roses and flowers, flowers aitd roses. He see red 
roses, pink roses, yaller roses, white roses, he even see green and 



One Fine Funeral 183 

blue roses. He see roses dat's spotted all colors, like de fantail 
peacock's feathers. 

"He see birds and beastes about him of ever sorts and con- 
ditions. He see lambs and dogs, and hawkses and doves, and 
love birds and lions all about him. And dey is all friends wid one 
nother and friends wid de peoples likewise. De fleas and de 
skeeters don't bite and dey ain't no bedbugs ^-tall. Everthing in 
Heaven is jest like Cass like it, only a whole lot mo so." 

Brother Bumpas say Cass get his reward for de good life he 
lead on dis earth. He tell what a fine place Heaven is and what 
a good time Cass have dere. 

He say, "Cass ain't got no troubles of no kind, now dat he is 
in Heaven. Dey ain't no 'wars in Heaven and dey ain't no sweet- 
heart troubles. Dey ain't no work to do and dey ain't no bills 
to pay. And dey ain't no taxes neither, and likewise no stinky 
smells. 

"All times de weather jest right, so don't wcbody talk none 
about it. It don't rain, nor thunder, nor lightin, nor snow, but 
dey's always plenty of water. 

"Don't nobody notice de time, cause in Heaven time jest 
stand still. Say Cass take his self a catnap. Maybe so he sleep ten 
million years but it jest like he doze for ten minutes. He wake 
up wid his friends close about him. Den might be he eat him 
some breakfast. A few pork chops, maybe, or maybe fried 
chicken, wid coffee and preserves and hot biscuits. Or ^wy thing 
else he might like. All dis he get and lots mo, cause he live for de 
Lawd on dis earth." 

Brother Bumpas say Cass always is been a mighty man at de 
prayin. 

"In Heaven," he say, "dey's no prayin. De Lawd don't never 
pray, cause He got nobody to pray to. We don't pray no mo 



184 / Been Told 

neither, cause dey ainh no sin no longer. And we don't have to 
go to no church. 

"But while we is on dis earth it behoove us to meet and pray 
mightily. Dat way we can all get to Heaven. Oh brethem, oh 
sisters, I tell you, dat Heaven's a sweet place to be! 

"Cass will be dere to greet us and all dem dat's gone bef o him. 
And de Lawd and de angels will sing and all of us join in de 
singin." 

So Brother Bumpas preach, and he preach for mo dan three 
hours. It sho was a mighty fine preachin. 

And now de preachin is done and dey most ready to put Cass 
away. Dey stand up to sing de last hymn, and Addie Bell go up 
to lead. She stand dere right beside Cass. She close to de pulpit, 
right under de organ loft. She commence to sing "Steal Away." 

Addie Bell singin sweet, sho nough. She mo dan a little bit 
tight, holding to de coffin wid one hand and swayin like a 
sycamore saplin. De organ is bumbUn and grumblin and Addie 
Bell singin so sweet. De others all singin too, and stompin dey 
feets, slow-like. De whole church house creakin and groanin. 

And den all to once it give way. De church-house flo spread 
apart and de rafters crack and bust loose. De walls commence 
to swag in and de roof shingles crackin apart. De whole organ 
loft sway out from de wall. 

Den de organ bust loose and fall. It jest miss de coffin, it jest 
miss de pulpit. Right s?nack on Addie it fall and squash her 
totally flat. 

And dat lick finish de house. On through de flo go de organ. 
Organ, pulpit, coffin and all, on down to de ground dirt, eight 
foot below. De whole flo bust plumb loose and everbody fall 
eight foot to de ground. And de rafters cave in about dem. 

De coffin hit de ground wid a smack. It bust open and fling 



One Fine Funeral 



185 



Cass out. Dere he sit wid his eyes wide open, prop up agin one 
of de high stilt postes dat's suppose to hold de flo up. He starin 
right at Addie Bell. And one of his arms fling straight out in 
front of him, pointin right at her. Addie Bell deader dan Cass 
is now, squash totally flat by de organ. And nobody else ain't 
hurt. 

So after dat, f olkses all know. Dey all know Addie Bell poison 
Cass so he can't marry Josephine Foxhall. Addie Bell done 
poison Cass and de Lawd strike her dead for her meanness. 

But dat sho was one fine funeral. De niggers on North Cen- 
tral Street ain't never forgit it till yet. 

E. E. Miller 




double Trouble 




"TWO IS MY LUCKY NUMBER," SAY TUBAL 

Creasy, "and is been ever since I was bawn twinses. And don't 
my own name start off wid fwo? 

"Rest of you niggers all time talkin bout three. Huh! Three 
ain't in it wid two! Two is de natural number for things to go 
good, but three forever cause trouble. 

"Like two folkses, a man and a woman. First off dey git 
along fine. Den along come another man or another woman 
and dat make three. And den do trouble commence! Man, oh 
man! Take three folkses and you got mo trouble dan a hound 
dog got fleas." 

When Tubal and his twin brother Jubal was two little bitty 
tar-babies, dey folks start dem off to school. And first off Jubal 
show how smart he is. He say, "Teacher, I can count." 

"Let's hear you," de teacher say. 

So Jubal hold up his left hand and mark off de fingers, and 
say, "One, two, three, fo, five!" 

"My!" say de teacher, "dat's fine! Tubal, can you count 
too?" 

i86 



Double Trouble 187 

"Sho I can count," say Tubal. "One, two." 

De teacher say, "No, no, Tubal. Don't stop so soon. Count 
de fingers on yo left hand." 

So Tubal say, "One, two, one, two, one." 

"You know dat ain't right. Tubal," de teacher say, "you sup- 
pose to say, 'One, two, three, fo, five!' like yo brother Jubal 
done. You must git him to lam you." 

"No'm," say Tubal, "dem other numbers don't interest me 
none. Two is de only number dat's any good. Cose you got to 
have one to git to tiDO, but de others ain't no use a-tall." 

And de teacher can't lam him no different. 

Tubal and his twin brother Jubal sometimes sleep in de same 
bed together. And Tubal find out de two of dem together can 
raise spirits and ghostes. And dat widout even tryin. 

Tubal be about to drop off to sleep and he rouse up and say, 
"Jubal, I wish you stop shovin me. Else I goin bust you in de 
snout!" 

"Why, I ain't shove you a-tall," Jubal say, "but you sho better 
quit kickin me in de ribs!" 

And Tubal say, "What you mean? I ain't kick you nary time. 
And dere you go pushin me! " 

Sometimes dis go on all night long. Dat spirit play jack wid 
dem both. 

Tubal say, "Dat jest go to show you. Two is de number wid 
power. Dey's a sight of power in two! When we sleeps apart 
dis ain't never happen." 

Not long after dis Jubal die, and folkses tell Tubal how sorry 
dey is. "Yes," say Tubal, "dat's bad. But den agin it prove how 
lucky I is, and how two is my lucky number. If I ain't been 
bawn twinses I be dead myself, but now de one dat cdrCt me is 
dead. Now ain't dat luck for a fack?" 



1 88 / Been Told 

When Tubal is a young buck nigger, he take to gamblin 
heavy. He carry a two dollar bill for luck, and he spend all his 
time shootin craps. But he ain't throw nothin but snake eyes. 
He lose all he got, from his shoes to his hat-band feather, but 
he keep his two dollar bill. 

"Well, honey kiss me wid a skillet!" he say at last. "I ought 
to know better dan dat. Two is my lucky number, so I can't 
help but throw it, but two ain't so lucky for craps. It plain to 
see, dis ain't my game." 

So Tubal ain't shoot no mo craps. He start in to playin de 
numbers. Always he pick a number wid two in it somewheres. 
But first off he ain't have no luck. Say he play 289. Two- 
eighty-nine ain't show up a-tall, but two days later nine-twenty- 
eight fall out. By dat time Tubal is bettin on six-forty-two. 
Six-forty-two is lost in de woods, but two days later two-sixty- 
four turn up. 

Tubal, he losin his money. He fold and unfold his two dollar 
bill. He tell a old grizzle gray-head nigger bout it. "I can't 
figger it out," Tubal tell him. 

De gray-head study a spell and say, "Dat's easy. You ought 
to box de number. Den if you pick nine-fifty-two, say, and 
five-twenty-nine or two-ninety-five or any number like dat 
made of dem three figgers turn up, you win anyhow. And since 
dese numbers falls out two days later you want to play dem dat 
way. Box all de numbers and play dem for two days after you 
picks dem and you goin win you some money." 

"Well, rock me to sleep wid a sledge-hammer!" say Tubal. 
"Look like I ought to knowed dat! Natchelly dey would hit 
two days later, cause two is my lucky number. And I sho will 
box dem numbers." 

"And sump'm else dat might help," say de gray-head, "is to 



Double Trouble 189 

go by yo dreams to pick numbers. Dat's de way I does and dey 
don't fail to turn up. Might be it's sooner or might be it's 
later, but when I dream dem, dey fall out one time or another." 

Tubal say dat sound like a right good notion, "Only one 
thing," he say, "Dey must be a two in de number. But iffen it's 
one of 77iy dreams dey's bound to be a two in it." 

So dat night Tubal has a dream. He dream he stand by de 
crossroads where two roads cross, and here come two autos 
down one road. Dey pass Tubal and he see de license number 
on both cars is tivo. Den here come two more cars down de 
other road and dey numbers is both twenty-two. Den two more 
come down de first road and dey numbers is two-twenty-two. 
Den two come down de other road wid four tv)0^s apiece on 
de license plates. And de cars go on and on wid bigger and 
bigger license plates and all de numbers on dem is long rows of 
fwo^s. Den Tubal look up at de sky and it's night and de stars 
is shinin. And all of de stars is little figger tivo's and dey shine 
like a million diamonds. And den de dream fade away and 
Tubal wake up and it's mawnin. 

All dat day up to way past noon Tubal try to figger what do 
de dream mean. He read dream books and he talk wid old nig- 
gers but don't none of dem agree. And de time gittin long near 
two o'clock when de pick-up boy come round to git de tickets. 
Tubal commencin to sweat like he at a August election. 

Bout two minutes befo two. Tubal look up at de clock. And 
what de dream mean come to him so quick, he set down right 
hard in de flo. 

"Well, dust off my pants wid a black snake whup! " say Tubal, 
gittin up on his feets. "Dat dream mean jest what it say. I wants 
to bet on as many two^s as I can. And dat mean two-twenty- 
two." 




So Tubal fix out his ticket for two-twenty-two, and he box 
de number all round. De pick-up boy tell him dat's a fine notion 
and ask how much Tubal want to play. Tubal he say he want 
to play twenty-two cents straight. So de pick-up boy figger 
out dat's a dollar and thirty cents to box it all round. And Tubal 
play dat number for de next two days. 

And sho nough two days after dat two-twenty-two fall out. 
Tubal can't wait for de pick-up boy to come round and pay 
him off. He figger he be rich now, cause he git mo dan a hun- 
dred dollars. 

But when de pick-up boy come round he shake his head and 
say, "I mighty sorry, Tubal. I sho is mighty sorry. But when 
we check up yo ticket we find it short two cents. It add up a 
dollar-thirty-two and you only pay a dollar-thirty. And you 
know de rule we has. We can't pay off on no short tickets. I 
sho mighty sorry, Tubal." 

So Tubal still can't win. Dat lucky two trip him agin. 



Double Trouble 191 

"I reckon I jest on de wrong side," say Tubal. "I still on de 
losin side. Den de thing to do is git on de winnin side." 

So Tubal git him a job bein pick-up boy and he git him a 
car to drive. A fine second-hand Ford coach. He say to his self, 
"Now Fs fix. I sho can't lose dis way." 

Now a new mayor is jest take office and he startin to clean 
up de town. He bear down on de numbers heavy. So de big 
boss say to his pick-up boys, "Be keerful. Don't take no chances 
gittin caught, cause I can't do you no good for maybe de next 
two weeks. After dat things be all right agin." 

So de pick-up boys lay low and dey keerful who see dem wid 
tickets. 

Two days later Tubal pull up his car at Cedar Street and 
Twenty-second. He lookin for a place to park. De onliest place 
he find open is right by a fire plug. He pull in and stop. 

Jest as he climbin out of de car, a poYict buggy-whup car 
pull up cross de street wid two pclicemans in it. One of dem 
jump out and run cross de street, wavin his club and yellin at 
Tubal, "Hey, you! Wait a minute! I wants to see you!" 

Tubal lose his fine new segar butt. He back up and stand 
bef o de fire plug. 

De poHceman git up close and say, "Say! What number fall 
out today?" 

Tubal sho is relieve. "Two-sixty-eight," he say. 

De poYict sling his club to de ground. "Damn!" he say. "And 
I had six-eighty-two and ain't box it! If dat don't beat de Jews! " 
He glare at Tubal fierce. 

Den he notice Tubal standin in front of de fire plug. "So!" 
he say. "Parked by a fire plug, huh? And a pick-up boy for 
de numbers, too! Engaged in de gamblin racket! Taking all de 
po folkses money! I spect we better run you in." 




So dey take Tubal down to de jailhouse and search him and 
dey find a whole passel of tickets. And de newspapers play de 
case up big and say de police really cleanin de town up. 

So when Tubal come to trial two months later dey got a long 
charge wid twenty-two mdites agin him. And de jedge say he 
goin make a example of dis desperate character, and he give 
Tubal twenty years in de state pen at hard labor. 

Tubal seem some put-out at dis. "Please suh, Cap'n Jedge," 
he say, "can't you change dat sentence somehow? Cose two is 
my lucky number, but I notice it ain't so good long wid other 
numbers and naughtses." 

De jedge say, "No, Tubal, I's fraid I can't change it. We got 
to clean up dis town and I can't reduce it none." 

"Nosuh, I ain't mean dat, suh, Cap'n Jedge," say Tubal, "but 



Double Trouble 193 

could you jest make dat twenty-iouc years, cause two is my 
lucky number?" 

"All right, Tubal," say de jedge, "de sentence is twenty-two 
years. And I hopes you finds it lucky." 

"Thank you kindly, suh, Cap'n Jedge," say Tubal, and he 
grin from year to year, "I sho do preciate dat. I done bet de 
key-toter my two dollar bill dat my sentence be twenty-two 
years. If I was to lose my two dollar bill," say Tubal, "I never 
would have no mo luck!" 

E. E. Miller 




Luster an de Devil 



I AIN'T BEEN DERE BUT I BEEN TOLD BOUT DEM 

mean f olkses down yander in de swampy lands. 

Meanest swamper ever live was man name Luster. H£sougly__ 
an black ^at at de high noontime hit look hkejnidnight^aw 
half a mile around him. An mean! Laws! Luster he so mean dat 
nothin but pizen toadstools would grow in his footsteps. 

Well, hit was jes one thing in de world dat trouble Luster. 
Dem swampers see him roamin round lookin grum wid his Up 
hangin down a foot. 

"Whut ail you, Luster?" dey say. 

"My feets," say Luster. "I can whup any man dat come up, 
but I can't git my feets warm. I wears sheep wool socks, summer 

194 



Luster an de Devil 195 

an winter, but my big old feets is always cold as blue spring- 
mud." 

"Whyn't you warm em at de fire?" dey say. 

"Aw, hit ain't no use," say Luster. "I try dat. My feets is so 
cold dat dey puts out de fire if I shoves em close enough to do 
some good. Jes freeze up dat fire to hit's nothin but a nest of red 
ice." 

"Hit's de damp do hit," dey say. "Hit's dis here ol wet swamp, 
Luster. Whyn't you dreen de swamp? You's big an strong. If 
anybody can dreen de swamp, hit's Ol Luster." 

"Doggone!" say Luster. "Gimme a pick an gimme a shovel, 
folkses. Yeah!" say Luster. "I gwine dreen dis ol swamp!" 

So Luster got de pick an shovel. He spit on his hands and 
swung de pick— unh—unh—unhf Every time he unh, de pick 
loosen ten foot of dirt. So he digged faw a week dere. Every 
time he thow out a shovel of dirt, hit look Hke dynamite goin 
off. 

One day Luster taken off to eat him little somethin. He fixin 
to take a bite when a black man, blacker dan Luster, pop 
out of de hole an come scootin up de slope like a rabbit. He was 
kind of smokin an he smell like a hot iron. 

De black man look mad. Sparks was jes spittin from his ears 
an some little red flames was curlin out of his nose. "Whut de 
devil you think you is doin. Luster?" he say. 

"Who want to know?" say Luster, reaching faw his shovel. 

"De Devil, dat who!" 

"Hunh," say Luster. "You is split from de ground to de 
belly-band, ain't you?" 

"Yeah, Luster, but I ain't a man. It's de Devil straight from 
Hell. An Hell's back yard is whut you's jes befo bustin into. I 
was layin out dere takin a nap when a clod of dirt hit me smack 




on de nose. I look up and see de pick point stickin through de 
roof. Luster, I ain't gwine put up wid you makin de roof of 
Hell leaky! Wid dat low grade coal we has to use hit's hard 
enough keepin de fires goin widout lettin no water in!" 
"Aw, shet yo tater-trap, black man! You ain't no Devil!" 
"Now, Luster, look at me good. Don't I look like de Devil 
to you?" 



Luster an de Devil 197 

"Naw, black man! I knows a preacher man look mo like de 
Devil dan you." 

"Come on now, Luster!" say de black man, gittin so upset 
dat he begun sweatin little streams of runnin fire. "You got to 
admit I got a tail. Take a look, Luster." 

"Hunh," say Luster. "I knows a man bom wid a tail an two 
extry fingers an toes. But he ain't no Devil. He jes a Methodist." 

Black man stomp his foot an fire spout up. 

"But I is dt simon jgure true blue Devil, Luster! Cross my 
heart!" * '^-" 

Luster jes laugh. "Prove hit. Yeah, prove you is de Devil!" 

"Now you is talkin sense," say de black man. "How you 
want me to prove hit?" 

Dat jes whut ol smart Luster waitin to hear. He say, "Well, 
my feets is sort of cold an if you's de Devil sho enough, why, 
supposin you jes give em little whiff of de fire of Hell to warm 
em up." 

So de Devil run back to Hell and dip up a gourd full out of 
de hottest core an come back to where Luster was settin. So 
Luster taken off his shoes an his sheep wool socks an stuck out 
his big ol feets. 

"You sho got a pair of feets. Luster," say de Devil. "My 
land!" he say. "Look at dat frost on em!" 

"Yeah," say Luster, "de minute dey hits de air, hit's frost all 
over em. Hurry wid dat hellfire, black man! " 

So de Devil po some of de gourd of fire on Luster's feets. 

"Aaah!" say Luster. "Dat feel good. Dey's gittin warmish. 
Po some mo, Brother Devil." 

So de Devil jes splash de whole gourd of fire on Luster's feets. 
"Didn't I tell you Fs de Devil, Luster?" he say. 

"Shodid. My, dat feel fine!" 



198 



/ Been Told 



Den Luster yell, ''^Ouch! You black son-of-gun, you blister 
my ankle!" An den he jump up and lam de Devil over de haid 
wid his shovel an de Devil drap daid in his tracks. 

So Luster thowed de Devil back in de hole and went on off 
wid his warm feets, "Dese is reel f eets now! " say Luster. An so 
when hit come de next rain de hole fill up wid water. 

An ever since den, folkses call hit de Reelfeets Lake. An if 
you don't believe dat, you can go dere any day in de year and 
see dat lake! 

James R. Asivell 




Pompey an de Lawd 




I AIN'T BEEN DERE BUT I BEEN TOLD BOUT HOW 

hit was in de slavery days. 

Mister Bird owned him a nigger name Pompey an Pompey 
want to be free. "Ain't no free, Pomp," dey say, "less you dies 
and goes to heaven." 

"Well," say Pompey, "I'll jes go and jump in de river an sink 
like a rock." 

"Naw, Pomp," dey say, "dat ain't no free, neither. Aw, naw! 
Hit's a sin, Pomp, an you's gwine to hot hell if you does dat. 
Ol Devil spread you out on de fiery coals an turn de blower on. 
Den you's damned in hell, Pompey, faw ever an a day." 

"I'll run away," say Pompey. 

"Aw, naw, Pomp," dey say. "Don't you do hit. Paddroller 
git you faw sho. Dey bring you back an whup you to yo hide 
won't hold shucks. Naw, Pompey, don't you do hit, boy." 

199 



200 / Been Told 

So every night Pompey pray to de Lawd. "Oh Lawd," pray 
Pompey, "I wants to be free an dey ain't no free but sweet 
heaven." 

But po Pompey never git no action. Pray an pray an dere he 
still is, still Pompey livin an workin in de slavery days. 

So he git down on his knees an pray harder an louder f aw de 
Lawd to fetch him away from de slavery days. Dat de way 
Pompey run on every night of de world,JbutJbejiever git no 
satisfaction. 

Well, one night Pompey was prayin away. Mister Bird come 
wanderin down to de slave quarters, jes walkin in de night air 
an worryin bout somethin. So whut do he hear but a lot of 
loud blimblam from Pompey's cabin. Mister Bird thought some- 
body's dyin, sho. He run to de cabin but he stop outside cause 
he can hear hit was only Pompey beggin de Lawd to take him 
away. 

"Hunh," say Mister Bird. "Well now! " Den he kind of laugh 
an say, "I see where I has myself a little fun." 

He sneak up to de window an pull his big black hat down 
over his haid and peep in. 

Pompey's ol woman seed him an say, "Whut dat?" 

All de chillun quit playin an say, "Whut dat. Pappy?" 

Pompey quit prayin an look round. "Who dat at my win- 
dow?" 

Mister Bird he stick his haid in de empty rain barrel an 
yell, "Pompey, hit's me, hit's de Lawd. You ready to go to yo 
long home in sweet heaven. Pomp?" 

He ask agin, "I say you ready. Pomp?" 

Reason Pompey ain't answer was he was behind de stove wid 
his haid shove into de wood bin. He pssst to his wife, he say, 
"Tell de Lawd I's gone possum huntin." 



202 / Been Told 

"Lawd," say de ol woman, "Pomp ain't here. He gone pos- 
sum huntin." 

"Do tell," say de Lawd. 

"Come back nother time," say de ol woman. 

"Naw, ol woman, can't do dat. Hit costes heap of money to 
make dis trip. Can't afford to come down here an not bring 
nobody back wid me. Got to take somebody. Reckon I'll jes 
take you, ol woman. Come on." 

Ol woman jump out of her chair an howl, "Lawd, I's made 
a mistdkt. Pompey he's right here, Lawd. Come out from be- 
hind dat stove, you nappy-haided scoundrel, you!" 

"Yas, Pompey," say de Lawd, "come on out! De heavenly 
choir waitin faw you to jine em. Dey needs a good tune- 
caller, an I hear you's as good as dey comes wid de fa-so-la." 

"Lawd," say Pompey from behind de stove, "wait to I gits de 
spring plowin done." 

"Naw, Pomp, can't do hit. You been beggin me to come git 
you, so come on now. Hit's gittin late." 

"Lawd," say Pompey, "Mister Bird spect me to boss de other 
niggers when hit's time to top de cotton. I's de onliest one know 
how to do hit right." 

"Roust out from behind dat stove, Pompey! " yell de Lawd. 
"I can't stand out here in dis here night air arguin wid you. You 
hearmtV^ 

Ol woman say, "Pomp, do like he say f o he git mad an maybe 
hurt de chillun tryin to git at you!" So she take Pomp by de 
hind laig an pull him out. 

"Lawd," say Pompey, "ol woman here she's de best alto we 
got at de Praise House. Take her, Lawd. I spect she help out 
de heavenly choir mo dan me. Anyhow, Mister Bird ain't gwine 
like hit if you takes me, de best field hand on de place." 



Pompey an de Lawd 203 

"You Pompey/" was all de Lawd say. But from de way he 
say hit, Pomp know hit mean business. 

"All right, Lawd, I's comin," he say. "Jes give me time to 
put on my Sunday pants." 

"Suits me," say de Lawd. "Might as well look good till dey 
can git you fit out wid dem snow white robes." 

So Pompey got back to de far end of de room. "Ol woman," 
he say, "hold dat do open." 

Well, ol woman she open de do an Pompey rated back an— 
zip! He went through de do. I mean he ivent through de do! 

"Whoa, dere. Pomp!" say de Lawd, an taken out after him. 

By time old woman an de chillun crept to de do, dey hear 
Pomp hit de canebrake, a good mile away, wid a sound like fire- 
crackers. 

"Mammy," say de chillun, "de Lawd gwine catch Pappy, 
ain't he?" 

01 woman say, "Ain't nobody can catch yo pappy." 

"Howcome?" dey say. 

She say, "Didn't you fool chillun see dat Pappy was bare- 
footedr 

James R. Asivell 




Meiungeon Tales 




Old Homy's Own 



PEOPLE WAS JUST NATURALLY MEANER AND 

tougher in the olden days. There's still some pretty bad out- 
laws operating today, but they don't none of them compare 
to men like the Harpe Brothers and old Mason or John A. 
Murrell, the nigger-stealer. But when it comes down to pure 
devils, why them old rascals ain't a patching to the Melungeon 
tribe that used to rove these mountains a-killing and a-burning 
and a-carrying on terrible. It's been a long time ago, but to this 
selfsame day womenfolks back through here curb down their 
young'uns by saying, "If you don't act purty, the Melungeons 
will git you!" 

Now Melungeon don't mean what church they are, like 
Baptist, Holiness, or Campbellite. It's a name for a separate 
generation of mankind in these mountains. It's the name for 
them dark little people that hide their cabins yonder* and away 
back on the ridges where the briars and underwood grow so 
hindersome that the thick-hidedest old razorback will set down 
and study hard before he'll take a venture through it. 

There's two tales on how the Melungeons come to be in the 
mountains. The old grannies say one time Old Homy got mad 

207 



2o8 Melungeon Tales 

at his old shrew-wife and left Hell and wandered all over the 
earth till he reached Tennessee. He set on a high bald and 
looked around him. 

"I declare to Creation!" he says. "This place is so much like 
home I just believe I'll stay awhile." 

So Old Horny found him an Injun gal and started in house- 
keeping. Time came and time went. Everybody knows the 
Devil's always busy, and soon the house was full of children. 
And mean! Law! They was every one as mean as the Devil— 
which is natural, seeing as he was their pappy— and as dark 
and treacherous as their mammy. They beat and hammered at 
Old Homy day and night. They tricked and mortified him 
till it was pitiful. Finally he just couldn't stand it no longer 
at all. 

"I might as well be in Hell with my old crabby wedlock 
wife," says he. So he packed his traps and sneaked out of the 
house and went a-skillyhooting back to Hell as fast as ever he 
could. And they do say it was them offsprings of Old Horny 
that growed up and started the Melungeon kind. 

The Melungeons themselves tell another story. They say 
they come from Portugal a long time ago and sailed in a big 
ship across the wild seas till they reached this country. Then 
some sort of a hardness sprung up betwixt the captain and the 
sailormen and they had a bloody scrap and the sailormen won. 
Soon as they'd hung the captain and his friends, the sailormen 
set the ship afire and went ashore and hid out in the woods. 
By and by they found a tribe of Injuns and made off with the 
women. Then they wandered and they roamed. Where all 
they went there's no telling. Some time or other they crossed 
over the high mountains into Tennessee and set down to stay 
hereabouts and have been here ever since. 




Anyhow, in the early eighteen hundreds the Melungeons 
was here. So the white settlers commenced a-coming in and 
noticing what good creek-bottom farms the Melungeons had. 
Them great grandpappies of ours just wanted them farms till 
they hurt. They was a breed that got what they wanted. If 
the Melungeons had been plain Injuns, it wouldn't been no 



2IO Melungeon Tales 

trouble to kick them out. But here they was, a-speaking Eng- 
lish, and on top of that they was Christians. Some of them had 
fought in the war against the English. 

Well, the white settlers didn't want to do nothing that 
wasn't right with the Lord and the Law. So they scrabbled 
around and studied it from all sides and directions. They 
knowed the Melungeons, like the Cherokees, had let runaway 
slaves hide out amongst them. This with their dark skins was 
enough to make our grandpappies see pretty plain that the 
Melungeons was a niggerfied people. The more they looked 
at them good Melungeon bottom lands, the plainer they saw 
that nigger blood. 

So they passed a law. They fixed it so that nobody with 
nigger blood could vote, hold office, or bear witness in court. 
Then they got busy and sued for the bottom lands. Pretty 
soon the Melungeons lost all their holdings in law suits. They 
couldn't testify for themselves on account of the new law, and 
the white settlers had the backing of that law and, if they 
needed it, the militia. There just wasn't nothing left for the 
Melungeons to do but move into the high ridges. 

And that's when the trouble started. Yes, it was real mur- 
der and bloodshed trouble, not one of your little puny feud 
fights. 

On black nights in the dark of the moon the Melungeons 
come a-raiding down into the coves and valleys. They done 
their meanness quick, shooting the farm people— man, woman, 
and child— and slipping back to the ridges. They left burning 
barns and houses behind them, they killed the stock, and fired 
the crops in the fields. Mighty few whites lived to tell of it 
when them devils had been around. 

Time and time again the whites would get up a big posse, 



Old Horny^s Own 2 1 1 

armed to the bootstraps, and head for the Melungeon country. 
They never got much far. The Melungeons laid for them and 
bushwhacked their dayhghts out. About the best the white 
folks could do was catch a stray Melungeon every once in so 
often and hang him high. 

Yea, in yonder troubled time these old coves and ridges 
was nigh enough to hell to smell the brimstone smoke. But 
time run along and both sides sort of begun to let up a little 
by httle. 

All at once the whites wanted to plumb bury the hatchet. 
Yes sir, they decided it the minute the word spread out that 
the Melungeons had come on some gold back in the ridges. 
Law yes! The hatchet was just naturally a-going to be buried 
forever— or anyhow till the Melungeons told where that gold 
was a-coming from. Well, it wouldn't wash, this peace and 
brotherly love talk. The Melungeons just wouldn't listen. They 
started trading with the whites, but not a peep about the 
whereabouts of that gold would they let out. 

They must've rigged up some sort of smelter or other and 
their own mint, because they begun bringing out a kind of 
rough-cut double eagles. Everywheres in these parts store- 
keepers took in them double eagles and no questions asked. 
And for good reason, too! Must have been twenty-five or 
thirty dollars' worth of fine soft gold in them. So the store- 
keepers got fat and sassy on Melungeon trade and everything 
was fine. 

By and by the news got around and even Washington heard 
about it. The Government got hopping mad, so I've heard, 
and sent in a bunch of officers to stop the counterfeit making. 
And then there ivas hell to rip! The storekeepers just wouldn't 
stand for it. They got hot in behind the politicians and pulled 



2 12 Melungeon Tales 

strings. Pretty soon word come from Washington for the of- 
ficers to come on home and f orgit it. 

Finally the supply of gold must've give out. Anyhow, the 
Melungeons stopped a-bringing in the double eagles. White 
folks still tried to find where it come from, but no sir, thank 
you, them Melungeons kept it their bosom secret. Today I 
don't reckon even the Melungeons know where the mine was. 
Leastwise, they don't say so if they do. Gold's been located 
in North Carolina, I hear, and a few years ago there was a 
to-do in the newspapers about a mine being found up in Ken- 
tucky. For all anybody can say, there's still a plenty of gold 
back here in these ridges somewheres. 

After the gold stopped a-coming, the Melungeons was as 
poor as gully dirt again. Oh, they still done some trading down 
into the valleys but it wasn't much, just mostly herbs and 
ginseng and such. Whites left them alone because they were so 
wild and devil-fired and queer and witchy. If a man was fool 
enough to go into Melungeon country and if he come back 
without being shot, he was just sure to wizzen and perish away 
with some ailment nobody could name. Folks said terrible 
^ things went on back yonder, blood drinking and devil wor- 

k y^hip and carryings-on that would freeze a good Christian's 

^ I '^.I'spine-bone. 

^^ Well, first thing anybody knowed the Civil War busted 
. \j^ out. Most of the men hereabouts joined up with the Union 

F^ and started in fighting. But you can bet a pretty the Melun- 
^^ geons didn't bum no shoe leather hotfooting it to the colors 
—the Stars and Bars nor the Stars and Stripes, neither one. They 
figgered it wasn't their fight. After the war got a-going, a heap 
of them took up bushwhacking and made a proper good thing 
out of it. The old folks say for years after the war the Melun- 




Old Horny'' s Own 213 

geons was still a-trying to git the blue and gray pants and 
coats they'd taken from supply trains wore out. They was 
plenty of killings enduring those bad old war times, but all of 
them can't be hung on the Melungeons. Too many gangs of 
white bushwhackers, draft dodgers, and deserters rampaging 
about in the hills for that. But Lord knows they were up to 
enough mischief, though, at that. 

Anyways, the shootings and burnings started the old trouble 
again and there was ambushes and raids a plenty back and forth 
for years. Even right lately it was a mighty dangerous business 
for a Melungeon or a white to be caught in the other's stomp- 
ing grounds. Peace officers never even tried to take the law 
back into them Melungeon ridges. 

The whites always claimed the Melungeons was a nigger 
breed and nobody can deny some of them really was. Some 
of them mixed and mingled with niggers and got the name of 
Blackwaters. The pure breed Melungeons wouldn't have noth- 
ing to do with the Blackwaters. They called themselves Ridge- 
manites or Hill Portughee, and today there's not any difference 
much betwixt them Ridgemanite Melungeons and the rest 
of us. 

Why, I don't reckon over twenty or thirty outright Melun- 
geon famihes are left around here. Some of them moved West 
after the Civil War. I've heard tell of one patch of them that 
settled somewheres in the Ozarks and is still there to this self- 
same day. A good many Melungeon bucks was drafted into 
the army enduring the German War and their families drifted 
off to the North. 

But it will be a long old time before the Melungeons are 
forgotten back through here. Not as long as the old folks like 
to talk and the young'uns listen, nor as long as there's high old 



2 14 Melungeon Tales 

tales to tell. Now, take the stories of Shep Goins, the Melun- 
geon fool-killer, and Big Betsy, the Melungeon she-devil moon- 
shine queen, for instance 

James R. Aswell 




foohKilling Shep Gains 

IT WAS A LONG TIME BACK, AND JUST WHERE- 

abouts I don't know. Some says it was in Rhea and some says 
Hancock. It must have been somewheres or they wouldn't 
talk about it like they do. They tell me that this Shep Goins 
was a long tall slab of meat, most six foot tall and a half, with 
that dark Melungeon skin and a kind of lengthy and drawed 
out face and a sizable beaky nose. He was just a plain ordinary 

215 



2i6 Melungeon Tales 

and no-count Melungeon until it come a brush-arbor re- 
vival meeting. Where they had it there's no telling. But they 
had it. And seems like Shep and a powerful turn of others got 
moved by the holy spirit enduring the meeting. That red- 
headed Preacher Puddefoot must've been one powerful ex- 
horter to git them Melungeons afeared about their souls. 
Anyways they let him duck the whole kit and boiling of them 
under the creek, and I can't name that creek for you neither! 
I just know what I hear, and the name of the creek wasn't 
in it. 

So right soon after that old Shep started on his doings. 
Started making them Melungeons step all over the place. 

Now, seems like Shep vows Old Master come to him in the 
night. "Shep," Old Master says, "there's too many pure fools 
running around loose hereabouts. Am I right?" 

Shep he says, "Yes sir, truer word was never spoken ever. 
Too many fools! " 

"All right then," Old Master says to Shep. "The hills is full 
to hard-down busting with fools. I hate fools the worst kind, 
Shep. So what do you aim to do about it, Shep?" 

Shep thought about some scripture words this Jepson 
preacher was always dragging in and they come in handy to 
him. He says, "Have thine own way, Lord." He says, "Any- 
thing you want done, just you say the word. Shep Goins is 
your man." 

Old Master stood there a-straddle of Shep's bed. "That's 
fine spoke, Shep," says he. "Now I tell you what I want you 
to do. You're a pretty fair shot, ain't you?" 

That went all over Shep. "Fair, hell!" he says. "If I ain't 
the best shot anywheres around here I'll eat a red bull and it 
bellering! " 



Fool-Killing Shep Goins 217 

Old Master says to him, "All right, Shep. Take your rifle, 
Shep. Take it and practice up. Because you got to be a thun- 
dering good shot, Shep, when you're rambling on the Lord's 
work. 

"So take your rifle. And every time word gits to you that 
any of your people been doing foolment, shoot them down 
cold dead. For I'm fixing to make these here hill Portughee 
my chosen people, Shep. The Hebrew children has let me 
down. And I don't want no fools amongst my chosen people. 
I'm leaving it in your hands to weed out the fools, Shep 
Goins." 

When he heard that, Shep felt like somebody'd taken and 
turned the world arsy-versy. Old Master was gitting dim and 
fading out and Shep was all a-sweating and blowing and study- 
ing about the big job of work he'd been give. 

So he yells, "Wait a minute, please sir! How in the nation 
can I git around to all the fools on this earth? It'd take me 
mighty nigh a hundred years to make a start on just Ten- 
nessee!" 

"You got me wrong, Shep," says Old Master. He was 
gitting smokier every minute. "Leave the rest of the world to 
Old Homy. He'll git them anyways. You stay right here in 
the hills. You trim your own folks into shape so's I can choose 
them. Let everybody else wallow in sin to hellfire." 

When he heard that, Shep felt a heap easier in his mind. It 
was a tall chance of work, but he figgered he could do it if 
he lived long enough to. 

Come morning and Shep already had his first fool picked 
out. He up and shot a neighbor man. Seems like the man was 
figgering on sending his children to some sort of school some- 
wheres. So Shep laid him low. "He's only one fool," Shep 




says, "but if he sends them children to school, it'll make six 
fools I'll have to git shet of sooner or later. Schools is fool 
factories." 

The sheriff of whatever county it was didn't bother them 
Melungeons just so long as they didn't aggravate the white 
folks. So Shep he didn't have no trouble about the shooting. 
It run on like that for months and weeks. Every now and then 
Shep Goins would git him another fool. Let a Melungeon do 
some bragging and blowing off at the mouth. Pretty soon 
they'd be burying him with one of Shep Goins' bullets smack 



Fool-Killing Shep Goins 219 

betwixt his eyes. They got to where they would set down and 
study long and hard about every little thing they put their 
hands to, scared that Shep Goins'd mark them up for a fool- 
killing. Shep got so he said he could just smell a man and tell 
was he a fool. Growed to be mighty proud of his work, Shep 
did. 

The only one around there, wherever it was, that didn't 
sing low when Shep was around was Brother Puddefoot, that 
red-topped preacher. Preacher Puddefoot wasn't no Melungeon 
to begin with. He come from somewheres way over to West 
Tennessee. Like as not he had to hotfoot it to the hills to keep 
out of the jailhouse. And he didn't belong to no special church, 
neither. Just preached for his self. They say when he first 
showed up amongst the Melungeons he was a sorry sight. 
Looked like the buzzards picked him, he was so all in rags and 
jags and hungry-lank. But he hadn't been preaching and tak- 
ing up collection hardly no time before he had a big fine belly 
on him and as slick a rig of clothes as you'll see anywheres. 
Them Melungeons somehow just naturally taken to him. 

Well, him and Shep was both working for Old Master. So 
they got to be thicker than two drummers around a jug. And 
when Shep tells Brother Puddefoot how Melungeons was 
going to be the chosen people, that preacher he took a-holt 
of it. Bore down on it in his preaching. He had them Melun- 
geons thinking their great day was rising tomorrow. It just 
ain't no wonder at all that they listened to Brother Puddefoot 
like he was John Paul Gospel his self! 

So it was Preacher Puddefoot married a gal named Vandy 
May to Shep Goins. They say she was a likely looking Httle 
baggage, as cute as a bug. Heaps too good to be coupled up 
with that razorback Shep Goins. I reckon she thought he was 



2 20 Melungeon Tales 

a fine match, he'd got to be such a big Somebody around 
there. Seems Hke the womenfolks goes for the big man every 
time. Find your Big Tail Pete and they's a mess of women 
buzzing around. It never fails. Even if this Vandy gal didn't 
take to that ugly cuss like a mammy cat takes to fish heads, 
she dast not say a peep about it. She married him and part - 
neredLMs-bfed. 

Well, Shep hadn't been a married man very long. Preacher 
Puddefoot comes to him and says, "How's the good work 
gitting on?" 

"First rate," says Shep. "Just about got the fools whittled 
down, Preacher." 

Puddefoot says, "That's just dandy, Shep! But look-a-here, 
Shep," he says, "you don't stand there and tell me you done 
put all the fools out of the business, do you?" 

Shep he swelled up, proud as Punch. "Blame nigh," he says. 
"Maybe a few left, but they're so goddurn smart about hiding 
that they're fools that they got to almost have more sense than 
anybody else to do it." 

Brother Puddefoot shaked his head and sucked in his lips. 
"That's just around here," he says. "How about all them 
Portughee that lives other places? I mean them in North Caro- 
lina and Kentucky and all?" 

"Why," says Shep, "the Lord didn't in special say nothing 
about them others." He says, "Seems like to me he just meant 
those around here." 

Puddefoot he give his head some sad shakes. "Oh no," he 
says. "The Lord don't do things halfway that-a-away. If he 
told you the hill Portughee, why he meant all of them, from 
the babe in womb to every last old grandpap. For he seeth 
every little sparrow which falls down, Shep." 



Fool-Killing Shep Goins 2 2 1 

Shep didn't like that notion at all. "Well," says he, "it looks 
to me like he'd told me flat-out if he aimed for me to tend to 
them others. I don't mind telling you, Preacher, I ain't minded 
the least Httle bit to go off right now. Why I just now got 
Vandy May to where she's wifing good." 

Preacher Puddefoot says, "I tell you what, Shep. We got 
to pray on this. Nothing on earth like the sweet power of 
prayer. Brother Shep. I'm coming up to your place this very 
night. You and me will go down on our knees and ask the 
good Lord what he wants you to do." 

And that's what Preacher Puddefoot done. Yes, him and 
Shep they got in the bedroom at Shep's cabin. Shep crooked 
down on his knees and the preacher taken a pillow off the 
bed and got down on his knees. 

Then Brother Puddefoot sailed in. "O Lord, here's thy 
faithful servant Shep here. He's fair up a stump, Lord. Come 
to him tonight, O Lord, and stand by his bed. Come to him, 
if you want him to do like I told him, and say, 'Shep, I know 
the stew you're in. I'm a-going to help you out. Yes, Shep, 
I'm set on helping you out. Shep, I meant all the hill Por- 
tughee wheresoever they are. All the hill Portughee, Shep. 
Work on all of them, Shep!' " 

Brother Puddefoot he kept at his praying for most an hour 
until Shep he was so all-fired sleepy he couldn't hardly see 
straight. You know how it is when a preacher gits a-praying 
around like that. You'll git buzzy and foolish in the head spite 
of all you can do. 

And sure's doom's a-coming, Shep woke up that night. 
There stood Old Master a-straddhng his bed and looking like 
a great big forky-legged cloud of fire. 

"Shep," he says, "I know the stew you're in, and I'm a-going 



22 2 Melungeon Tales 

to help you out. Yes, Shep, I'm set on helping you out. Shep, 
I meant all the hill Portughee. Work on all of them." 

Nothing to it after that but for Shep to slip his halter and 
git on his way about prying out the fools amongst the Melun- 
geons in other parts of the hills. So Shep he taken him his rifle 
and left home. He made Brother Puddefoot vow he'd look 
after Vandy May while he was away. 

They say Shep was gone pretty close to over a year. No- 
body heard a word about him enduring that time. 

Then along about one night he showed up at Brother 
Puddefoot's place, all frazzled and wore out. He said he'd 
been in North Carolina and Kentucky and pretty nigh all 
over everywheres. Well, he brought back a left leg limp from 
a slug he'd been shot with. He had a new purple scald on his 
head where a man nigh brained him with an axe. Seems like 
the Melungeons off in other places didn't know Shep from 
Adam's Off Ox and didn't fancy him nosing in and shooting 
their fools up. 

"I done all I could," Shep tells Preacher Puddefoot. "Yes, 
sir, I sure done my levelest best. But them peckerwoods give 
me all sorts and sizes of hell. Once they had me in the jail- 
house. But I busted out. They possied me with bloodhounds. 
But the Lord didn't let them catch me. They shot at me. It 
was going and coming. It was nip and tuck, and pretty plagued 
uncomfortable. 

"So after a while I got to praying. Just like you showed me, 
Preacher. Yes, I prayed unto the Lord. I asked him to tell me 
if I could come back to Vandy May. And the Lord he did 
answer my prayer. He told me to go back home, and here I 
am." 

Preacher Puddefoot shaken hands with him and tells him 



Fool-Killing Shep Goins 223 

how glad he is to see him. Then he pulls his face long and 
sucks in his lip. "Bless your heart, Brother Shep, you didn't 
git here a day too soon," he says. 

"How come?" says Shep. 

"I just come from up at your place," says Preacher. "I was 
up there seeing if Vandy May was all right," he says. "I been 
looking after her, Brother Shep. And Brother Shep, it's almost 
her time." 

Shep says, "Now what air you talking about. Preacher?" 

"I say it's almost Vandy May's time. Time the baby was 
a-boming." 

Shep he let loose a lost-dog howl when he heard that. "What 
baby? What babyr 

Preacher holds his hands up and smiles sort of gentle. "Your 
baby, Brother Shep. Whose else. Brother Shep?" he says. 

"It can't be my young one!" says Shep. He starts dancing 
around and waving his arms. "I been gone more than a year! 
Why damn your red fur. Brother Puddefoot! Have you been 
letting Vandy May loose around and grow me a pair of horns 
while I was gone—?" 

Brother Puddefoot drawed his self up tall. "Easy there, 
Shep," says Brother Puddefoot. "I vow it ivould look queer 
if it was anybody else's wife but yours. Brother Shep. But, 
Brother Shep, think a spell. Don't forgit that the Lord picked 
you to do his work, Shep." 

But Shep was gitting hotter and hotter. "That don't make 
no difference!" he yells. And his face got all swole up and 
went every color you can mention. "Thirteen months' time 
is too goddum much, I tell you!" 

And Shep he tried to go rushing out past Preacher Pudde- 
foot. 



2 24 Melungeon Tales 

But Preacher Puddefoot grabbed a-holt of Shep's shirt and 
held him back a minute. "Listen here!" says he. "You know 
how the Lord made the sun quit rolling long enough for the 
Hebrew children to whip the Phihstines? You know how Moses 
hit the rock and the Lord did make a spring gush forth?" 

Shep said he knowed about that. He slacked up on his 
pulling. 

"Well, then," says the preacher. "Can't you see it, Shep?" 

Shep said no he couldn't see it. 

"Why it's just this," Preacher says. "The Lord knowed it 
would be hard on Vandy May a-birthing a young one without 
its pap here. So what did he do? He just made it slow a-coming. 
He just held it up until you got home." 

Shep's eyes got big and he stood there studying. "And you 
reckon no man has got with her?" 

"Reckon?" says Preacher Puddefoot. "Bless you. Brother 
Shep, I'm for certain sure! Why I been watching that gal like 
a hawk. I been taking care of her mighty careful. Brother 
Shep." 

So after Preacher orated some more to him Shep went on 
home. He was feeling pretty puffy about Old Master holding 
Vandy May's time till he got back. Well, sir, they say he 
found Preacher Puddefoot told him right about Vandy May. 
She didn't look like she had more than a few days to go. 

Well, and then Shep settled his self down to rest and wait. 
He was so whipped down tired from his rambling he couldn't 
hardly make it over to that red-headed preacher man's to tell 
him farewell. Seems like Preacher Puddefoot had to leave. It 
was on account of him gitting word that his old maw was lying 
on her deathbed in some far-gone place in West Tennessee. 

Yes sir, and so the young one was bom a week later. 



Fool-Killing Shep Goins 225 

And Shep he taken one look at that baby's red fuzz and 
went out and shot his self spank betwixt the eyes! Because Shep 
was fool-proud of his reputation for fool-killing. 

James R. Asivell 





Six Hundred Honest Pounds 



THEY SAY IT WAS BACK IN THE EIGHTIES, OR 

maybe the nineties, and in Hancock County. Whatever the 
year of it, there was a big barbecue and rabbit stew near the 
Powell River. A man running for Congress was who give it. 
Now, Hancock is still a mighty lean sort of place and all you 
have to do to git most of the whole county together on one 
point of ground is to let out that there'll be free eats. They'll 
come Ford-back, mule-back, foot-back, and a-crawling down 

226 



Six Hundred Honest Pounds 227 

every little path out of the hills. They'll come like red ants 
to spilled honey. 

And so it was this time I'm a-chawing about. Every soul 
for thirty mile around that wam't too feeble or crippled to 
move or too wanted by the Law to be seen in public places 
was there in that beech grove beside of the Powell River. Even 
a heap of folks from up across the Kentucky line— where it's 
pretty lean, too— was on hand trying their best to look like 
they was bom and bred and done voting square in Hancock 
County. 

The poHtical speaking come first, of course. The eats and 
the fun is always left to the last so's everybody will be sure 
to stay and hear the speaking. So the man that was running 
for the Congress got up and bellered and raved and told what 
he was agin. And that was just about everything you could 
name excepting Free Silver and free seeds for the farmers. He 
was all for them free things. Well, anyhow, he had his say and 
most of the folks just squatted there in the beech grove and 
slept with their eyes stark open till he was plumb talked down. 

The gathering begun to pearten up when he wiped his face 
and said, "I thank you good people, one and all, the best and 
clear-headedest people in the world, the people of Hancock 
County, the best little old county anyzoheref" and set down. 
Then everybody made a heavy scramble for the big black 
kittles where the stew was a-steaming and the long board tables 
where the barbecue was laid out and for the whiskey barrels 
all stacked a-ready and a-waiting. So for half a hour there 
the people tore into that barbecue, chomping and a-grunting, 
ladled down that good rabbit stew, and supped at their tin 
cups full of bold likker. 

When all this truck got kind of mixed around inside and 



2 28 Melungeon Tales 

settled down, folks felt in the sociable way and was ready for 
the fun to commence. 

And it commenced. First the call went out for wrastlers. 
The hardest knots in the county wiped their mouths and come 
elbowing through the crowd. There was two good baker's 
dozen of them— stringy long-cut scrappers and short butt-cut 
brawlers. There was men with wild beards and mean eyes and 
clean-faced men and men with handle-bar mustaches. Scuf- 
flers, fist-fighters, knock-down and drag-out trouble makers, 
kickers, butt-ers, gougers, and ear-chawers— they all stood 
around sneering at each other and skeeting baccy-beer at each 
other's boots and making their brags. 

The judges was just before pairing the wrastlers up when 
here come a woman a-pushing round the edge of the crowd. 
Nobody much noticed her till there she stood among the 
wrastlers. She warn't overly high, but she was so all-fired broad 
and square that she looked like a packing case with a round 
head stuck on top. Yes, she was a youthsome barefoot woman 
in a short kind of dress and a big man's blue jumper heaps too 
little for her and all sprung out at the seams. Another thing 
was her dark face, with high cheekbones and slanting eyes as 
black as swamp water. Everybody knowed then that she was 
a Melungeon woman and they stared like they was seeing a 
blue bear. In them days Melungeons just naturally stayed out 
of the way when white folks got together. 

So one of the judges called out, "Everybody clear back ex- 
cepting the wrastlers! " 

The Melungeon woman just stood there. 

So the judge says, "I mean you!" 

"I'm a wrastler," says she, and her voice was so deep and 
heavy that the judge jumped back a step. 



Six Hundred Honest Founds 229 

All the wrastlers laughed, "WrastHng's for men!" they said. 

She was a-chawing baccy. She let fly at the ground and it 
smacked up a little cloud of dust. "Maybe to now, hit's been," 
says she. "But I'm Betsy Mullins— they call me Big Betsy— and 
I do hail from Newman's Ridge. I'm a woman with all the 
womanly trimmings, but don't let hit bother none of you. For 
I'm a better man than any of you rounders here!" 

And she let fly some more baccy juice, she throwed back her 
head and she laughed. 

All the wrastlers was tore up and mad. Bad enough to be 
sassed by a woman and when that woman was a Melungeon in 
the bargain— well, no strong-founded man would stand for it. 

Easy the biggest man there was Black Joe Bascom and he was 
fair blaze-snorting for trouble. He looked her over from top 
to toe. He thowed off his jumper and shirt, drawed his belt 
in, and says, "Take heed, wench! I'm a-coming at you!" 

And he come. Yes, he come in kicking and a-thrashing, with 
his teeth splitting his black beard and a-snapping the air. 
He meaned business, woman or no woman. 

Seemed like Betsy Mullins meaned a little business too. She 
straddled her legs and a-flipped the muscles in her arms. But 
she kept a-chawing her baccy slow and stiddy as a heifer in the 
shade. She didn't flinch nor start an inch when Black Joe give 
a last whoop and a jump. 

A power of dust was kicked up. It was hard to see what was 
happening. Looked like and sounded like somebody in there 
was a-beating carpets and a-driving stobs at one and the same 
time. But not for long. 

For in a minute something come a-roUing out. End over end, 
it come and wrapped around a tree trunk. It was nobody but 
Black Joe Bascom, limp and sound to sleep. And there stood 



230 Melungeon Tales 

Betsy Mullins with half of Black Joe's beard in her right fist. 

"Is this here the best you can do?" says she, jerking her head 
towards Black Joe. "Don't tell me!" She got a plug of eating 
baccy out of her jumper pocket. She bit off a chaw and looked 
at the bunch of wrastlers a-standing there with their mouths full 
of teeth. 

The men just sort of cleared their throats and shufiled their 
feet. 

"Why then," says Betsy, "I'll take on any two of you to 
once. Or if tivo of you will git lonesome, I'll make hit three. 
Any three, any style scuffling—/ don't keer, I'm shore." 

But they done her one better. Four of them hemmed in on 
her from four directions and the dust begun to fly and out of 
it come a sound hke a crew of choppers a-cutting railroad ties. 

Well, it lasted about four times longer than the scuffle with 
Black Joe Bascom and it made four times more dust and taken 
four times longer to clear away so's a body could see what had 
happened. 

Then all the folks just choked and whistled. For there set 
Betsy Mullins on a stack of four men, piled up like cordwood. 
Seemed like the seams of her jumper was sprung a little more, 
but wam't no other signs on her. She wam't even a-blowing 
from it. 

"Come on, you rounders!" she says. "If the men round here 
is this puny, I reckon I'm good-able to take on the rest of you 
at one whack." 

What was left of the wrastlers looked at Betsy Mullins. They 
looked at the pile of men she was a-setting on and at Black Joe 
Bascom, still asleep in a heap by the beech tree. They looked at 
each other and they looked at the ground. They didn't say a 
word nor make a move. 



Six Hundred Honest Pounds 231 

So Betsy she waited a little, then got up and shaken the 
settled dust off her and says, "Aw now! Maybe I'd better come 
at you/" And so she cocked back both fists and started towards 
that bunch of hard knots. Yes, she come at them like a boulder 
rolling loose. 

Well, for just a bit there it looked like them big strappers 
aimed to hold their ground. But then one of them yelled, "Keep 
that danged she-Melungeon off me!" and broke and run. And 
in no time every last one of them hard knots swung to and 
busted out for unknown places. 

So Big Betsy MuHins blinked her eyes and fuddled around 
like she was a-looking for somebody to scuffle with. Then she 
turns to the judges where they was standing and a-staring like 
they was seeing supematurals. She says, "Gents, hit does look 
like I winned, now don't hit?" 

"Why yes," says the head judge. "Why yes." He thought 
hard and then says, "Why-uh-yes." 

"Yo're giving a fat shoat for the prize, ain't you?" says Big 
Betsy. 

"Why yes," says the judge. 

"Well," says she, "supposing you keep hit and let me name 
a prize that hit won't cost you a penny." 

The judge he said it again, so Big Betsy says, "Just give me 
yore leave to sell a few little old gourds here, if anybody'll buy. 
That's all I ask, yore Judgeship." 

So the head judge— and he was a real lawcourt judge as well 
as a barbecue wrastling judge— he said he didn't see no harm 
in it, he reckoned. She might as well go on and sell her gourds, 
he said. 

"Word of honor," Big Betsy says, "that nobody will try to 
stop me nor do me no damage after I'm through?" 



232 Melungeon Tales 

"Shore I give my word," says the judge, "and I give my 
honor." 

So that Melungeon woman just held her hands to her mouth, 
taken a long breath, and sung out, "Hoooo peeg, peeg, peeg, 
peegf" And it rung out through that beech grove like the reach- 
ing blast of a good brassy bugle-horn, ''''Peeg! Peeg! Peeg!" she 
bellered. 

Well, a dozen or so razorback hawgs that had been a-rooting 
around in the woods come a-snorting but Big Betsy didn't pay 
them no notice. She was looking towards the Powell River. 

And mighty soon all the gathered-round folks there did see 
what she was a-waiting for. They did see seven dark and bare- 
foot Melungeon bucks come-a-trotting out of the cane-brake. 
And each of them toted seven big stoppered gourds slung from 
a yoke round his neck. 

It was gitting rare warmish in the beech grove and the free 
whiskey was all drank and folks was sweating and a-gitting 
thirsty. So when these here Melungeons passed round and pulled 
the stoppers out of the gourds and everybody whiffed rich 
likker, a big whoop went up and there was a rush of business. 

But the judge says to Betsy, "Whoa, woman! Air that gov- 
ernmentally stamped whiskey in them gourds?" 

Betsy she looked him smack in the eyes and says, "Yore 
Judgeship, no." 

"Well," says he, "you can't sell it, then." 

"I can sell hit, yore Judgeship," she tells him. "I've got the 
authority to. You give hit to me just awhile ago. If you want 
the world to call you a bare-faced liar, a two-double Injun- 
giver on yore own sweared word— well I can't keep you from 
hit." 

When the judge studied about it and did see how slick he'd 



Six Hundred Honest Founds 233 

been sold, he just laughed and told her to go ahead and sell 
her likker. ''''This time," he said, "but never again no more, ever! " 

"Thankee kindly, yore Judgeship," says Betsy. "I thankee 
for me and for them seven husbands of mine that's too busy 
selling drinks to thankee themselves." 

"Seven husbands!" says the judge. "Why, woman, that's 
strictly bigamy!" 

"I thought hit was pretty big of me, too, yore Judgeship, 
when I taken them seven men on last year. I wam't but only 
sixteen then. But now I'm turned seventeen and got my full 
growth I'm a-looking for a few more good husbands. Spread 
the word around, won't you, yore Judgeship?" 

The judge he just set down on the ground and sleeved the 
sweat off his face and never said another frazzling word. He 
just sort of muttered to himself and wandered off a-shaking of 
his head. 

From then on that Melungeon-breeded woman begun stir- 
ring up a right smart of talk around Hancock County. There 
was a good tripled-up reason for such talk. First place was you 
didn't often meet up with three hundred honest pounds of she- 
woman like Big Betsy Mullins— not in old lean Hancock, no- 
ways. You seldom no time never run across moonshine likker 
as fine as what her and her husbands made back in the briars 
on Newman's Ridge. It was away the best moonshine in Han- 
cock County and folks that knowed good likker sent all the way 
from far-gone places to buy it. On top of all that, it got to be 
where Big Betsy was the mostj.rrestedest_party in the whole 
stretch of the up-country. 

Well now, after Betsy had sold her ungoyernment-stamped- 

._-less whiskey right out at public gathering that way and before 

a judge, too, it was right natural that Revenuers would be 



Six Hundred Honest Pounds 235 

a-watching to see if she done it again. So when it got to be that 
folks from the far end of Hancock County and even from over 
in Grainger and Claiborne would scrabble up to Newman's 
Ridge to pay seventy-five cents a gallon for Betsy's likker, 
when they could git all they wanted— and good stuff, too— for 
fifty cents a gallon, why the Revenuers couldn't help but no- 
tice. So it wam't a whole year after that barbecue feed before 
a party of Revenuers scuffled and scrambled, hanging tooth and 
nail for dear life, up Newman's Ridge. Single file they come up 
the straight-up-and-leaning-back trail of the cliff to the top 
where Betsy's cabin set on the very backbone of the Ridge. 

Betsy come to the kitchen door. She watched them drag up 
the last few yards of the way. "Take hit easy, boys!" she yells 
to them. "Hit's powerful steep and slickery right about there. 
And you needn't be afeared I'll leave. There ain't no other way 
down from here." 

They finally make it up, all five of them, and stood round 
the kitchen door a-puffing and a-blowing. Then the head leader 
agent— a little spindle-shank of a man he was— catched his breath 
a little and says, "Betsy Mullins, I arrest you for moonshining 
in the name of the United States government law." And then 
he stepped back a step right quick and looked at her watchful. 

"Why, shore, boys, shore," says Betsy, a-chawing stiddy. 
"I been expecting of you boys for a long time now. What kept 
you so long?" 

"Well, Betsy, we been sort of waiting around to catch you 
down in the lowland," says the number-one debity. "But seems 
Uke you don't git down there so much. So we finally seen we'd 
have to come up and git you." 

"Right enough, boys," she says, "and I'm rarely pleased to 
see all of you. Come in and take a few cheers. Seems to me 



236 Melungeon Tales 

there's a gourdful or so of some prime ripe likker somewhere 
about that'd maybe hearten you up a bit after yore hard pull." 

"Thank you kindly enough, Betsy," says the head leader 
agent, "but we really ain't got the time. We aim to git back 
down this hardsome trail right along before dark catches us. 
So if you'll just git them gourds for evidence and come along 
peaceable-like, why we'll be a-gitting on back to Sneedville." 

"Don't blame you a bit, boys," says Betsy. "That trail is right 
worrisome after dark, specially a-going down. And welcome 
enough to the gourds you are, too. But I'm afeard I can't go 
long with you this time, boys, much as I'd like to." 

"Take care there what you say. Big Betsy," says the head 
leader agent. "You can be lawfully shot in the name of the law 
for resisting arrest." 

Big Betsy says, not missing a chomp on her chawing, "I know 
that right well. Mister Agent. And I ain't a-resisting no arrest. 
You have done legally arrested me and I have freely agreed. 
All I'm a-telling you is that if you want me to come down this 
ridge, you'll have to carry me somehow. I done sprained my 
ankle so bad I can't bear to touch hit to ground, let alone put 
my full weight on hit." 

The agents then taken notice that her right ankle was 
wrapped in near ten yards of bright home-spinned cloth. They 
looked at Big Betsy standing there with her right arm propped 
agin the doorjamb and they looked at each other. Betsy had 
gained easy fifty pounds during the year and she was nearing 
four hundred pounds. They looked back at the trail they'd 
scrambled up by the hardest. How it come straight up single file 
for eighty or ninety feet, and then leaned back out more than 
straight up for the last fifteen or eighteen feet. It wam't but 
barely possible for a man to git up the first eighty or ninety 



Six Hundred Honest Founds ii,'] 

feet and it wam't really possible at all to git up the last fifteen 
or eighteen feet. How they done it, they didn't know them- 
selves. 

Then they looked back at Betsy and thinked about lugging 
that nigh four hundred pound of she-brute down that trail. 
The biggest debity of all— six-foot-six, three-hundred-pound 
scrapper, he was— groaned out loud. 

The number-one debity says, "Oh my God!" and slemped 
down to the ground, flat on his face. And the little spindly head 
leader agent taken a bad fit of the shuddering jerks. "Dad 
fetch it all!" says he, betwixt tooth chatters, "must be a whole 
slew of rabbits playing hopscotch over my grave-place!" 

Well, the short of it was, Betsy had them. 

There just wam't no way a-tall, possible nor not possible, 
that they could've taken that big she-brute down that trail. 
So they smashed up one of Betsy's mash tubs, so's they could 
say they done it, and drinked a few gourds of Betsy's prime 
ripe likker to hearten them up a bit and said their prayer-pieces 
to themselves and started back down the trail. And somehow 
they all made it back. 

After that there warn't a year passed but at least two or more 
parties of a head leader Revenuer agent and his debities would 
scramble up that trail to Betsy's cabin on Newman's Ridge. 
But it was always the same. Betsy was arrested freely enough 
but she always had ailing foot trouble of some sort and couldn't 
walk. And there wam't no possible way to cart her down. 

Betsy had got so she didn't even leave her cabin. She didn't 
have no need to. She was taking on one or two new husbands 
every year and sometimes more if one happened to die off on 
her. So her husbands made the likker and sold it and waited 
on Betsy hand and foot and she didn't have a frazzling thing 



238 Melungeon Tales 

to do but set in her special big rocking cheer, that was carved 
from a solid oak stump, and rock and chaw her eating baccy. 
When the Revenuers would ask where her still was she would 
truthfully say she didn't know. Her husbands moved it about 
from one thicket briar-hell to another. 

Time slipped along and went by like this for a long spell. 
Some says it was six, some eight, some says as much as fifteen 
or more years. But anyhow, the tale got to be told around and 
finally leaked back to Washington, D. C, that the Revenuer 
agents and their debities didn't do a form thing when they went 
to arrest Betsy Mullins but throw big party drunks and drink 
up a few gallons of Betsy's prime ripe likker and bust up one 
measly mash tub. The same one every time. One of Betsy's hus- 
bands would put the pieces together again when the agents left 
and leave it there a-waiting for them to come back and bust it 
again. 

So the big chief head leader United States government Rev- 
enuer agent in charge in Washington, D. C, was some peeved 
about this. He called him a meeting and they jibbered and jawed 
for a week or two and laid plans to git big Betsy Mullins. They 
vowed they would bring her down off of that Newman's Ridge 
and try her. 

So, maybe a month later it was, a whole special crew of 
Revenuer agents and debities and rock quarry men— drillers and 
blasters and such like— scrambled and toiled up the trail to 
Newman's Ridge. Twenty-two men on the crew there was, 
and two debities that had been there before to show the way. 
They taken sledge hammers and rock drills and dynamite and 
ropes and pulleys and chains and blocks and tackles and a whole 
slew of such like stuff. They aimed to git Big Betsy Mullins and 
bring her down off of that ridge and try her. 



Six Hundred Honest Founds 239 

When they got to the last cliff where the trail went straight 
up for eighty or ninety feet, the rock-drillers and quarry men 
went to work. Every three feet they drilled them a hole in the 
rock and set them a thick iron rod in it, sunk two feet in the 
solid rock and sticking out a foot and a half. It taken them three 
full weeks to set them rods up the eighty or ninety feet to where 
the trail commenced to lean back. 

There the rock-drillers and blasters went to work. They 
drilled holes deep into the rock and charged them with dyna- 
mite. Then they dumb down the iron rod steps and got back 
away from the foot of the chif and set oif the dynamite. They 
aimed to blow oif that overhanging hp-edge and level the trail 
at least straight-up-and-down all the way if they couldn't do 
no better. 

They blasted away at that overhang for three days and by 
then it was pretty near gone. It taken them longer than they 
figgered because on the second day they was a-blasting, Betsy 
sent a couple of her husbands out to ask them to please make 
them dynamite charges a little bit littler. She said the blasts 
was so big they shaken the cabin some and hurted her rheu- 
matics. 

So on the fourth day they set off the last blast and blowed 
off the last of the lip-edge of the cliff. Then they started to put- 
ting in iron rods the rest of the way up. They rushed the work 
and finished that up by nightfall. And now the trail was all 
done. 

Next day the whole crew of agents, debities, rock-drillers, 
blasters and all, dumb up the cliff trail to the top. The head 
leader agent picked out a spot in the solid rock of the ridge back- 
bone, and two men set to drilling a hole straight down. 

Then the head leader agent went over to the wide open door 



240 Melungeon Tales 

of Betsy's cabin. Betsy set there in her big solid oak rocking 
cheer, a-rocking and chawing stiddy. 

"Hidy-do, mam," says he, a-taking his hat off. "Yore Mrs. 
Big Betsy MuUins, I take it. I'm a United States Revenuer agent 
and it's my bounden duty to place you under arrest." 

"Why shore, Mister Agent, shore," says Betsy. "Ain't none 
of you boys called on me in a long time and I been a-kind of 
missing you. Come in and take you a cheer and tell me what you 
boys are a-doing. You shore been making a mighty miration 
around here. You'll excuse me for not gitting up, but the truth 
is I done got so heavy and my rheumatics is so bad, I can't 
bear my own weight a-tall. Just find you a cheer some where 
and one of my husbands will fetch you a gourd of prime ripe 
likker." 

So Betsy puts her hands to her mouth and bellers, "Hooo, 
peeg, peeg, peegl" and in no time at all a whole pack of Me- 
lungeon bucks come a-trotting up from somewheres on the 
ridge. One of them was a plumb young unbeardless boy, but 
most of them was fairly along in years. And the one that got 
there first was old and white-whiskered and bent. 

"Jeremiah," says Betsy to him, "fetch Mister Agent here a 
gourdful of our best likker to sup while he tells me about what 
he's a-doing. And you might ask the debities and rest of the 
crew out there to have some, too. See that all git what they 
desire." 

But the head leader agent says, "No, thankee kindly, Mrs. Big 
Betsy, but I can't allow it. We aim to take you back down and 
try you and it wouldn't be noways right for us to drink this 
ungovemment stampedless whiskey." 

"Just suit yoreself, Mr. Agent," says Betsy. "You're kindly 
welcome to hit. Now, tell me, just how you aim to git me down 



Six Hundred Honest Pounds 241 

from this ridge, when I weight better'n five hundred pounds 
and can't bear my foot on the ground? Just how do you aim 
to do hit?" 

So the head leader agent told her about how they'd blasted 
away the lip-edge and set iron postes in the trail. "And now 
we're a-setting one great big post on the ridge backbone to 
anchor a block and a tackle to. We aim to let you down off this 
ridge in a big rope sling and then cart you from cliff bottom 
in a wagon." 

Big Betsy went right along with her rocking and chawing. 
"Uh-huh," she says, "I see. Well now, that sounds like a right 
smart notion. Did you think that all up by yoreself?" 

"Well, no mam, not quite all by myself," says the head leader 
agent. "Some of the httle details was thinked out by others. 
But mostly it's my own figgerment." And he rared back in his 
split-bottom cheer and sticked his thumbs in his vest armholes. 

And that just shows you, you never can tell how many ducks 
will hatch from a setting of goose eggs. Next day they finally 
had every fired thing ready— everything a body could think of, 
the big iron post set, the block and tackle all rigged up, a har- 
nessed team and wagon a-waiting at the foot of the cUff and 
even a whopping big pillow and some padded coverlets to make 
Betsy easy in the rope sling. So now they was ready to git her. 

The head leader agent went to the door of the cabin. He 
taken his hat off and turned it around in his hands. 

"Good morning to you, Mrs. Big Betsy," he says. "I'll thank 
you kindly and take it right well of you if you come along 
with us without no trouble." 

"Shorely enough. Mister Agent," says Big Betsy MuUins. 
"I'd come right along with you in a minute if only I could. 
But I can't move myself about a-tall now. Hit takes five or six 



242 Melungeon Tales 

of my strongest husbands and nine of my weakest ones, to move 
me about from place to place now." 

"Just you rest easy about that, Mrs. Big Betsy," says the head 
leader agent. "I'll call in a dozen of my men to cart you out to 
the cHff-edge." 

"Well," says Big Betsy Mullins, "I reckon I might as well 
tell you this now and save you the trouble of gitting yore men 
in here. Fact is, Mr. Agent, I ain't able to leave this cabin a-tall. 
I ain't noways able to fit through that door frame now." 

The head leader agent's mouth fell open till his chin near 
busted his kneecaps. It was a full ten minutes before he said a 
word. 

"Why, then," he says at last. "Why-er, a-well-er— I guess I'll 
have to git my men to bust down one wall of this cabin." 

"Don't you do hit. Mister Agent," says Betsy. "Hit wouldn't 
be noways healthy for you. I done asked a lawyer-man judge 
about hit, and he says that for what I'm charged with and the 
warrant you'd have, my house couldn't be noways damaged 
a-tall. And that is the way I'd have hit, so long as I live. My 
great-grandpappy built this here house with his own two hands, 
and I want hit should stay like he left hit." 

Well, the head agent hummed and the head agent hawed and 
he stayed round the place for a week. He sent word and got 
word and he thinked and he talked, but he knowed from the 
first that Betsy was right. And he finally had to admit it. 

Yes siree. Big Betsy had them again. There just warn't no way 
they could git her. 

But her kinfolks did finally use that big iron post and the 
other fearsome work them agents and debities and rock-work- 
ers done. That was after Big Betsy died, must've been eighteen 
or twenty years after. They busted out a wall of her cabin then 



Six Hundred Honest Founds 



243 



and wrapped her in quilts and blankets and her husbands and 
kinfolks lowered her down. She had thirty-three husbands and 
fourteen cousins, and they all agreed that Betsy weighed six 
hundred honest pounds and maybe then some. 

And she keeps a-growing after death, too— for the last time 
I did hear her story told, she'd made it up to seven hundred 
pounds. 

James R. Asivell 

E. E. Miller 




A Stroke 

for the Kingdom 




BROTHER BILLY STUART RODE THE LONGEST 

circuit in East Tennessee. 

Brother Billy was young and a mighty man. He preached the 
glory of God and the sinful power of the Devil. When he stood 
before a congregation, six-foot-two-inches tall, his wavy brown 
hair falling down to his shoulders and gray-green eyes blazing 
as he told the torments of the damned, people just cowed down 
before him. The biggest and meanest man in the house would 
feel like a whipped cur dog. 

"Yes! " Brother Billy would shout. "The stink of that blazing 
pitch and brimstone will be in your nostrils forever! And the 
horrible stink of your own burning flesh, all rotten with slime 
and corruption! And the fiery flames leap up from the coals, 
the white-hot coals that make up the whole floor of Hell! And 
the fire rains down from the flaming sky forever and ever and 
ever! " 

One mighty arm would shoot out in front of him. 

244 



A Stroke for the Kingdom 245 

"You!" he'd shout, pointing right at the biggest and meanest 
man. "You! Yes I mean you, my brother, my friend and brother 
in Jesus! Give up your sinful ways and come to the mourners' 
bench! Come and be washed in the blood of the Lamb and be 
whiter and purer than snow! " 

I tell you, it made a man feel low. Even the best of them. 

Then Brother Billy would tell about Heaven, his eyes all 
soft and dreamy. Dreamy and faraway they'd look now, near 
about lost behind his long dark lashes. The very air in the 
church would be soft and mild and sleepy. The men would nod 
in their seats, but the women looked and listened. 

Yes, Brother Billy was a mighty man. The women all sighed 
and the menfolks feared him. He made a sight of converts. 

But when Brother Billy said he was going up into Hancock 
County to preach, other folks told him to sky clear of it. 

"Only Melungeons and such-like trash lives there," they said, 
"and it won't do no good to preach to them, they're such an 
ungodless lot. Some says they worship the Devil. They really 
ain't worth saving. Why, it's downright dangerous to be among 
them and that Shad Bolton in particular. He's a mean un if ever 
there was one." 

Brother Billy says, "Spread the word of God and fear naught. 
I shall go among them and preach." 

And he did. The folks around about Sneedville finally let 
him hold a meeting in a httle bitty two-by-one-and-a-half log 
house. Even then they acted some grudged about it and no more 
than six or seven, mostly women, came to the meeting. 

But Brother Billy wasn't a smidgin put-off. He preached 
Hell-fire and harp music at them, same as if five hundred people 
were there, and rode away singing a hymn. 

And when he came back a month later, he had maybe twenty 



246 Melungeon Tales 

or thirty to hear him. Mostly women, he noticed. Brother Billy 
didn't much like that. 

"I got to get the men," he says to himself, "before I can do 
any good. You can always count on the women. And I can get 
the rest of the men if I just get Shad Bolton. Yessir, Shad 
Bolton's the man I want to convert." 

So Brother Billy told out he would hold a revival meeting to 
last a whole week at Far Willow River. That was halfway be- 
tween Sneedville and Bardstown and he figured he might be 
able to get the Sneedville menfolks to come, with the help of 
their women. He'd noticed that Shad Bolton's woman, Leola, 
always came to his preachings. Right up front, she'd sit with 
her big black-set eyes looking right into his, and leaning for- 
ward to listen. A tall youngish woman, she was, with skin the 
color of buckwheat honey and hair like a black hawk's wing. 
The best-favored woman in these hills, thought Brother Billy. 
And that Shad Bolton was as ugly and onery looking a slab- 
sided, hammer-jawed hunk of a man as ever grew to be six 
foot tall. 

So when Brother Billy gave out that he was holding a re- 
vival meeting and invited the Sneedville menfolks in particular. 
Shad Bolton's woman was hot after him to go. 

"Oh Shad," she says. "Dt? come and be washed in the blood 
of the Lamb." 

"In the blood of a she billy-goat!" Shad says. "If you mean 
in that muddy slop that fills up Far Willow River, not by a 
damn sight, woman! I just as soon burn in Hell as freeze in a 
pile of mud." 

"Don't talk that way. Shad," she says. "It's sinful and dan- 
gerous, too. I want you to be saved. Shad, same as me. Then 
we'll be together in Heaven." 



A Stroke for the Kingdom i^j 

"Together in a bear's belly!" says Shad. "We're together 
right now, ain't we? Well, that's good enough for me. Come 
here, you fine piece of a wench! Now you forget all about this 
washing-pure crap, or I'll bust your goddamn neck!" 

But Leola, Shad's woman, looked worried. "Oh Shad," she 
says, ^'please come. See, Shad, I'm asking you on my knees! I'm 
praying for you. Shad. Oh, if you could just hear Brother Billy. 
Just once. He's such a fine man. Shad, I know he could save you. 
When he stands up there before you so fine and straight and 
strong you can feel the power of God so hard it makes you 
dizzy. And the look in his eyes is the look of angels, and his 
voice is the sound of waters." Leola was just a-rambling on now, 
dreamy-like, not really talking to Shad. 

Now Shad Bolton wasn't nobody's fool, even if he did have a 
face like a stubby bear's tail. "So that's the way things is," he 
thinks to himself. And aloud he says, "All right, woman, I'll go. 
I kind of hanker to see this angel-eyed, he-Billy preacher of 
yours, somehow. And even if he don't save me, I might be able 
to save hi?n awhile, if I salt down his carcass enough! " 

So come the day of the first preaching. Shad Bolton was right 
on hand. And so was every able-bodied man in Sneedville, 
after they found out Shad would be there. A good many men- 
folks from Bardstown came, too. And of course all the women 
from both towns, even though they were already saved. 

Never before such another crowd had Brother Billy seen. He 
felt a heart-swelling inside him as he looked out at all those 
people. "The Kingdom of God is near at hand," Brother Billy 
says to himself. "Now if I just get Shad Bolton to come through, 
the rest of the crowd will follow. It will be the biggest stroke 
for the Lord ever struck in these mountains. I shorely will get 
Shad Bolton, if it's the last thing I do." 



248 Melungeon Tales 

Brother Billy closed his eyes and prayed to himself: "Oh 
Lord, Shad Bolton's just got to come through! Oh God, help 
me make him sweat! Help me put the fear of Hell in his heart, 
and bring him through safe to be saved." 

But Shad Bolton wasn't studying salvation. When Brother 
Billy got up to preach to the crowd and Shad saw how young 
and well-favored he was, Shad felt like a holly-tree bush inside 
him. Red and green all mixed up together, and little stickers 
all over. "I'll get that honey-jawed jabber-box," says Shad, "if 
I never do nothing again. But first I'll just let him have his say. 
I'd just like to see what he's got that's so hot. Then I'll take him 
to pieces barehanded right here before everybody." 

Long about the end of the fourth day. Shad was beginning to 
find out what Brother Billy had. And he found it plenty hot, 
too. 

Two or three times Shad had been right at the place he near 
about give way and repented. When Brother Billy had been 
going strong on Hell for three or four hours on end, Shad 
would be burning and blistering inside and out till he wanted 
to cut loose and howl and tear off his clothes and sink down into 
the cool waters of Far Willow River and just soak up that 
coolness forever. The breath of Hell blew hot on him. Why, 
already a good half of the menfolks had give in and repented 
and been baptized, when hadn't none of them meant to at all. 
They's all aimed to wait and see what Shad Bolton done, but 
it just got so hot they couldn't stand it. 

But every time just when Shad was thinking he couldn't stand 
it another minute now. Brother Billy had shifted to Heaven. 
And that would bring Shad back to his senses. He'd see Leola 
standing right there beside him but her mind a far piece from 
him, looking into Brother Billy's eyes and listening dream-like 



A Stroke for the Kingdom 249 

to that sloppy slush about pearly gates and gold-paved roads 
and he'd bum up another way. Then it was all he could do to 
keep from howling out loud and rushing up to the pine wood 
platform and tearing Brother Billy into little bitty bloody 
pieces barehanded. 

But Shad managed to curb his temper and bide his time. "I'll 
let him say his say to the finish," he says to himself, "and then 
what I'll do to him!" 

So Shad steamed and sweated in fear and steamed and stewed 
in hate, but he determined he'd let Brother Billy say out his say 
to the last. 

Along in the midafternoon of the sixth day. Brother Billy 
was really bearing down. It was the middle of June and the first 
really hot day of summer. The air was sweltering hot and close, 
the ground was blistered and baked. Dust rose in a little cloud 
all around Brother Billy and his crowd of hearers, and settled 
down on them in layers. Their faces were streaked with sweat- 
streams in the dirt and the air heat shimmered above them. 
And Brother Billy was right in the hottest middle of Hell. 

"You'll be fried and burned and roasted and baked!" he 
shouted. "Stark naked you'll be and wrapped about with a fiery 
mantle of flame! Your skin will parch and crack and peel from 
you like cracklin skins at soap-making! Fried to a cracklin 
you'll be, like a squirrel in a skillet of sizzling lard! Your tongue 
will be swole till it won't fit your mouth and your lips will be 
burnt to a cinder! And never a drop of water to wet em! Your 
brains will bake and boil in your head and your eyes will pop 
and stew in their juices! Your hair and your whiskers will burn 
in a flame that never will die down or lessen! A black shriveled 
cinder you'll be, but you never burn out or quit suffering! No! 
Every day you're in Hell your torture and pain grows greater! 



250 Melungeon Tales 

Each day you suffer and agonize more and you bum for eternal 
forever! " 

Shad couldn't stand it no longer. He could feel the flames of 
Hell in his mouth, and his eyeballs and tongue were a-swelling. 
He knew that he had to get to that water, or he'd bust out in 
flames and bum to a cinder right there where he stood. 

"I'm coming!" he yells. "Oh God, I have been a sinner! Oh 
yes! I confess! I repent! Oh lead me down to the river, that 
sweet, wet, watery river! " 

"Hallelujah! Praise God! Shad Bolton comes to the mourners' 
bench! " Brother Billy sung out. He dropped down on his knees 
and turned his face up to the sky. "Oh God," he says, "Dear 
Lord, we thank thee that Shad Bolton is saved! We thank thee 
humbly, oh God, that Shad will not bum forever. No, God, 
Shad will now enter those pearly gates where you sit on your 
throne of gold. And choirs of angels will greet him and sing 
hosannas, plucking their harps of silver. And the cherubs and 
children will run to greet him, laughing and calling his name." 

Shad felt like somebody had smacked him in the mouth with 
a slimy dead fish the morning after he'd had too much popskuU. 
His stomach retched and heaved. He slackened his pace and 
tried to turn back. But it was too late now. He'd pushed through 
the crowd that opened before him, and was right beside the 
platform. And already the rest of the menfolks were crowding 
up hard behind him. 

He looked back at Leola but she didn't see him at all. She 
was looking right at Brother Billy, kneeling there on the plat- 
form with his face turned up to the sky. 

Shad blazed mad inside him and whirled back to face the plat- 
form. He opened his mouth and tried to say something but 
there was so much racket about him he didn't make no more 



A Stroke for the Kingdom 2 5 1 

noise than a pea patch in a hail storm. All the menfolks were 
yelling "Glory to God!" and "I'm saved!" and "Hallelujah!" 
and slapping Shad on the back and confessing their sins at the 
end of their voice power, till Shad didn't know which way was 
up or which end was going. He just stood there with his fists 
doubled up and mad as fiery blazes, not knowing exactly what 
he was mad at or what he wanted except to get to that wet cool 
water. 

Then Brother Billy got up from his knees and came down off 
of the platform. He put his hand on Shad's shoulder and looked 
right into his eyes. Shad felt calmed down a heap and the least 
little bit afeared. He hadn't never seen eyes like that before. 

Then Brother Billy says in a deep voice: "Come, my son. 
Come, and be washed of your sins and be whiter and purer 
than snow." And he led Shad down into the water. 

Shad was still mighty hot and sticky and he ached to feel 
that cool water. So he followed right behind Brother Billy. 

Brother Billy says, "I baptize thee, Shad Bolton, in the name 
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost." And he grabbed 
Shad by the arm and shoulder and soused him down, head and 
all, under the muddy water that filled up Far Willow River. 

That water was just as cold as melted mountain snow could 
make it. When it closed over Shad's head it gave him a real 
turn and brought back his sense with a jolt. He came up from 
that water as mad as he'd ever been in his life. 

It took him a minute to splutter the water out of his lungs and 
eyes and breathe in a mouth of air. Then he let out a roar. 

"Damn you to hell!" he yells, "I aim to kill you dead, you 
honey-tongued, jabber- jawed gospel mill, you! I'll drown you 
as dead as a nine day corpse!" And he grabbed Brother Billy 
and tried to wrestle him down into the water. 



A Stroke for the Kingdom 253 

But Brother Billy was a mighty man. Besides he knew if he 
lost Shad now he'd lose every convert he'd made. "The power 
of God be with me!" he says. "My son, repent of your evils. 
I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the 
Holy Ghost!" And he soused Shad under again. This time he 
held Shad under for at least a full minute. Then it seemed to 
him that Shad's kicking was getting pretty weak, so he dragged 
him up out of the water and waited to hear what he would say. 

Well, it took Shad more than two minutes to speak this time. 
He strangled and gurgled and spluttered and finally he spit out 
a tubfull of muddy river water and glubbled out something 
about "God damn—" 

Brother Billy soused him under real quick before he could 
finish, "Oh God," says Brother Billy, "forgive him his blas- 
phemous sins! I baptize thee, Shad Bolton, in the name of the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost! " 

When he pulled Shad up this time he wasn't kicking a bit. 
Fact is. Shad was limp as a greasy dishrag. Brother Billy looked 
at him. 

"I believe God has entered his heart," Brother Billy says to 
the crowd. "Lay him up there on the bank and some of you 
men revive him. Then if he ain't come through for God, I'll 
have to baptize him again." 

"You're mighty durn right he's come through," the menfolks 
says. "If he ain't in a sensible mind when we bring him to we'll 
just baptize him ourselves, and drown the onery fool! Take him 
up there on the bank and let us down into this water! It's 
hotter than Hell around here!" 

"Just hold your britches a minute," says Brother Billy. "It 
ain't right to rush the Lord's work." 

Brother Billy knelt down in the water and turned up his 



2 54 Melungeon Tales 

face to the sky. "Oh God," he says, "I thank thee. I thank thee 
that Shad Bolton's come through for God. I thank thee that 
thy humble servant, with thy help, oh God, struck a mighty 
stroke for the Kingdom this day! " 

E. E. Miller 




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